Jack Campbell

Returned from the edge of death, 66 year-old Jack Camp- bell is only alive today because of a set of perfect circumstances that aligned to deliver the paramedic and hospital care needed to successfully intervene and treat his heart attack that occurred on Friday, July 19, 2019. “Little did I know,” Camp- bell stated, “that those persons who were perfect strangers would, in a matter of seconds, transition into the best friends one could ever have.” He’s referring to the two first responders from the Cam- bridge Area EMS (CAEMS), Jay Deppe and Jennie Dillenbeck, who were fundamental in saving Campbell’s life that day. Deppe, a paramedic who’s volunteered as an EMT since the early 1990s, humbly says, “I just played my role.”
Fortunately, the state allowed him to play the role of paramedic that day through Wisconsin Act 97. Passed in Dec. 2017, Act 97 permits a rural ambulance service provider to upgrade its response level to the highest certification level of any EMS practitioner who can staff an appropriately equipped ambulance. However, the medical director for the service provider must approve an operational plan that’s filed with the Department of Health Services. The CAEMS received approval from its Medical Director to file a plan for Flex-Staffing, as it’s called, with the DHS, which authorized the Cambridge EMS to expand its field care capability to paramedicine, but only if a paramedic is on duty and a fully-equipped medic ambulance is available. Sue Cullen, Campbell’s wife, said, “The only reason Jack is alive is because of the response by two EMTs from Cambridge. They were fantastic!“They got here quick and they knew just what to do for a blocked artery, and they did it without hesitation. “The word needs to get out how incredible our EMS is. It was amazing to see them bring my husband back, because he was gone!” Jack concurred, “All I re- member before the EMTs got there was that I was on my way out of this life. There wasn’t any doubt about it: I felt I’d done everything in my life I was meant to do and I was totally at-ease with leaving, feeling completely peaceful. The day before, July 18, had been Campbell’s 66th birthday, and early that morning he’d noticed a dull ache in both upper arms. However, he’d dismissed the inconstant discomfort as “a pinched nerve” and when the pain subsided he went about his business. That twinge of pain recurred the next day, along with a queasy feeling located about center of chest, which Campbell describes as “a little like acid reflux.” He recounts the pains disappearing, once again, only to later return in late afternoon, around 4 p.m. Sue disclosed, “We didn’t quite know what to do.” With throbbing aches lasting for about a half an hour, Sue jettisoned the idea of taking Jack to the emergency room and called 9-1-1 at 5:15 p.m. She was connected to the Jefferson dispatcher, who kept her on the line as her call was transferred directly to the CAEMS, where Deppe handled the incoming call regarding “a male with chest pain.”Within minutes Deppe and Dillenbeck were out the door in Ambulance #94, which is thoroughly decked with all the equipment, supplies and medications required for a paramedic level first-response. They were on scene at 5:24 p.m. “Jennie,” Deppe said, “made initial contact with Jack.” An Advanced EMT, Dillenbeck observed that the patient “looked in acute distress” and she first assisted Paramedic Deppe by checking vital signs and administering aspirin and a dose of nitroglycerin. Deppe would later give Campbell morphine, which acts as an arteriolar vasodilator as well as painkiller. By 5:36 p.m. they had a 12- lead EKG device connected to Campbell and were getting its first readings. Two more EKGs would be taken during transport to the hospital, with all relevant data fed to St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. Before the flex-staffing to paramedic level, the EKG results were left to the interpretation of hospital staff, who often would conduct their own EKG tests to make absolutely certain they had the latest and most accurate reading and professional interpretation of its results. However, a paramedic is taught to interpret EKG data, and this field capability for the CAEMS meant the hospital could receive a trained interpretation and pre- pare accordingly. Deppe recognized a particular EKG pattern called a STEMI (for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction), which is an extremely serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries that supplies oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle is blocked. Such a ST-segment elevation is detected as an abnormality on the 12-lead ECG and Deppe communicated this info via both data transmission and radio to the ER at St. Mary’s. Denise Mitton, BSN, RN, is SSM Health/St. Mary’s Hospital Program Director for STEMI/Stroke/Emergency Re- sponse, and she coordinated the continuum of care with Deppe and hospital staff. “Because we could rely on the paramedic’s analysis,” Mitton vouched, “we were able to alert our several medical teams and have them prepped, ready and on stand-by.” As Mitton initiated the hospital’s multiaspected Level 1 response to Campbell’s medical condition, ER attending physician Michael Foley, MD, listened in and spoke with Deppe. By the time the ambulance arrived, Foley, staff and even the cardiologist were lying in wait. Foley declared, “Because we had a paramedic giving us the information, he got us 20 to 25 minutes ahead of time. “That’s so important with a time-sensitive medical condition like a heart attack, where time is muscle.” Over and again when dealing with a heart attack, one hears the medical refrain “time equals myocardial muscle,” because unlike skin or hair, if heart muscle is damaged, it will never grow back. The seamless integration of professional medical care from paramedic first-response through ER preparations and directly into the cardiac catheterization lab (CCL) optimized Campbell’s chances for success. RN Mitton, who literally kept all medical staff on the same treatment page, was at Camp- bell’s side as he was wheeled into the ER at 6:26 p.m. ER physician Foley was there in under a minute, and as a previous patient was being moved from the cardiac cath lab, cardiologist Gregory Tester, MD, came to see Campbell in the ER, from which the new patient was rapidly whisked away to the CCL. From the time the paramedics delivered Campbell to the ER and on through the lab for his “definitive care,” every- thing had transpired in under 14 minutes. Campbell recalls asking, “When will it hurt?” He later admitted to thinking that he would feel some kind of awful pain accompanying the treatment, something agonizing that’d make him shudder-back to full physical reality. Someone answered him, “You’re all set!” Campbell couldn’t believe his ears. Though he’d been fading in and out of consciousness over the last couple of hours, though he doesn’t remember answering questions put to him (even though he did, according to eye-witnesses), and even though he’d been snapped along the rubber band of life back into this world, the simple fact that the worst was over hadn’t fully registered. The arterial expansion via balloon and placed stent took about 11 minutes to adeptly accomplish, ending the crisis. “The crushing elephant,” Campbell mused, “that many patients and professionals use to describe the sensation on your chest never happened to me. So, I sorta felt that I’d experience some jolting pain or something when they had me in the cath lab.”Campbell’s unusual self-ob- served symptomology is else- where described, but upon reflection he offered, “The dedication and professionalism of these people–paramedics, doc- tors, nurses–transcend the mere mortal. “They aren’t performing this service for esteem, position or reward, but to save a life…nothing else!” Past the vicissitudes of consciousness, Campbell attests, “To observe them functioning under extreme stress, abhorrent conditions and unknown peril to themselves is truly amazing.” Cullen couldn’t find superlatives enough to extoll para- medics Jay and Jennie, as well as nurse Mitton and doctors Foley and Tester. However, what she was most grateful for was the legislative insight embedded in the flex- staffing option provided by Act
“I felt I was in a peaceful place, where everything I had needed to do in life had been successfully accomplished–I have two great kids that are grown-up and happy, I have a wonderful wife, and a life filled with so many precious memories–but because I had done everything I’d wanted to do, all my worldly concerns seemed to fly away like all my senses had done.” On July 19, 2019, Jack Campbell’s life had been saved by the timely and adept intervention of CAEMS Jay Deppe, paramedic, and Jennie Dillenbeck, AEMT. Their early start on tests, medications and EKG readings with paramedic interpretation gave St. Mary’s ER Program Nurse Denise Mitton and Attending Physician Mike Foley the heads-up they needed to prepare for Campbell’s arrival. Within minutes after arriving at the hospital, Campbell received definitive care for a Level One heart attack in St. Mary’s Cardiac Cath Lab under aegis of cardiologist Greg Tester, MD.With no complications Campbell was released from the hospital on Sunday, July 21, 2019. The objective details to those events are covered in the main article to this sidebar, which is the subjective story of Jack Campbell’s near-death-experience (NDE) that happened BEFORE any EMT had arrived in response to his wife’s 9-1-1 call. “I felt an overwhelming sense of peace wash over me, completely beyond words; I can’t give an accurate description of the deep, deep peace that overwhelmed me!” If a “core feeling” must be assigned to Campbell’s profound experience, it would be the deep sense of peace and relief he chants as a refrain in his narrative, which he was good enough to relate alongside his wife, Sue Cullen, on July 27 at the couple’s home near Lake Ripley. Sue had been monitoring her husband’s worsening condition during that Friday, July 19. “We had talked about what he was feeling over the day. It came and went, but when it seemed to stay with him and he was having problems breathing, I decided I needed to call 9-1-1. “What I heard was unearthly. It sounded like deep rattling from the bottom of his lungs. Bob [Salov, CAEMS Director] said some people call it ‘the death rattle’ because it’s the body’s last attempt to get air.” Jack doesn’t remember any of that. In fact, as he suffered under the “spell” of upper arm aching, labored breathing, and the falling away of all sensory inputs, Sue left him sit- ting on the edge of the bed, his hands cradling his head as she made the emergency call. With his left eye technically blind, Campbell remembers, “I began to lose the vision I had in my good eye; my peripheral vision began to break-up into chunks, like small pieces of a circular puzzle falling away. “Everything faded fast. All my senses closed down, or so it seemed, and all I had were internal feelings “At first I felt incredible relief. It’s like all the concerns I had, all the problems, the responsibilities, the complications of life, the things you have to do… it’s like laying it all down. “It was an intense sense of relief.” Campbell seems to struggle to express himself, “But it’s hard to put these feelings into words, because in order to describe the experience I had I can only use the words we have, which were made to apply to our external, everyday world.” Though words fail to capture the subjective subtleties of the NDE, the unmistakable affective experience of peace was an undeniable presence. Jack braces himself and continues, “But when I say relief, I mean the deep, overwhelming sense of release because I felt my life’s mission was a success and there wasn’t anything more I had to do. It was a good, good life, but now I was free to move on and I was more than willing to go.” Besides the peace that passes understanding, there was another inner datum that Campbell experienced as a self-evident item of consciousness. “And I was incredibly thankful for that feeling of relief, just deeply grateful that I’d made it through.” Peace and gratitude. “But the other thing I want to mention,” 97 and the fact that paramedic Jay Deppe was on duty and able to administer the medications and treatment according to the protocols of paramedicine. Campbell saw paramedic flexing as the golden thread running through the whole medical story he had underwent on July 19. “The big story here is the importance of allowing a community to get the best medical care that its EMTs are trained for,” Campbell asserted. STEMI Program Director Mitton emphasizes the entire continuum of care that was diligently provided to Campbell that fateful Friday, beginning with Campbell himself and his wife.“Sue did everything right,” the ER nurse emphasized. “Jack, too, as he reported his symptoms to her and they discussed what to do.” A veteran of traumatic events and advanced medical interventions, Mitton shared, “People don’t see the quiet work that takes place behind the scenes, where family or bystanders can be critical to the success of a medical response.” She also underscored the life- and muscle-saving time provided by paramedic Deppe. “We had every confidence in his trained interpretation and be- cause we did, we activated all units, supervisors, cath lab staff, ICU and Step-Down to Immediate Care.” Mitton, Foley, Tester, Deppe and Dillenbeck all agree: the time saved by paramedic intervention and treatment directly translated into viable heart muscle spared, not to mention a life. “The EMTs and people at St. Mary’s,” Sue Cullen concluded, “saved my husband’s life.” So saved, Campbell smiled beneath his banana tree on July 27, 2019, at the front of his home near Lake Ripley, adding, “And don’t forget Act 97!” CAEMS Director Bob Salov indicated that this was the first time the district leveraged the relatively recent piece of legislation to flex its staffing to paramedicine. “We prepared for this eventuality,” he affirmed, “by equipping Ambulance 94 for a paramedic level response, as well as ensured paramedic level staff.”CAEMS began 2019 with three full-time paramedics on staff, making Act 97 a viable option.“We plan,” Salov said, “on fully equipping our other ambulance, number 92, within the next month so it can also run paramedics.” With another paramedic- grade ambulance, CAEMS could also offer inter-facility transport services from one medical facility to another, even outside its own district, as well as direct transport of residents within the district. Salov concluded, “What the saving of Jack Campbell’s life shows is the wisdom in enacting Act 97.” Campbell agrees, but re- turned to the trained, capable people who’d saved him. “Because of the recent and rather dramatic events in my life, the Cambridge EMS and St. Mary’s staff can count on my lasting appreciation, support, admiration and friendship for life. “Because, afterall, it is only through their professionalism, dedication and devotion to their mission that I now have a life to live.”
Campbell continues, “is the incredible familiarity I felt with what I was undergoing. I’d done this in some strange way before, as if it was all part of the great continuum of events. “It’s something I’ll be pondering a long, long time, the feelings and realizations I had.” After pausing for a moment of reflection, Campbell resumed his NDE account, “I think the two biggest things to come out of this are, first, the extreme familiarity I had with this experience and, second, the deep sense of relief I felt, the comfort, the release, and the gratitude. “Again, none of these words capture what I felt and experienced, but they’re all I have. It was like a complete and total wash, like I was inundated with warmth and feeling comfortable. “Just amazing! That’s about the only way I can sum it up.” Whilst Campbell was under the tidal sway of the Amazing, Sue had noticed, as she was on the phone with 9-1-1, that Jack had slid down the bedside to the floor, on which he was now planted with back against the bed. Though technically floored, Jack avers, “I found myself heading out of this world and into another one.” When Sue heard the details of her husband’s overwhelming, amazing interior experiences, she compared what was happening internally with Jack against how he behaved outwardly. So after her call and before the life-saving expertise of the medics was available on scene, it had been Sue who intervened to pull Jack back from the brink of death’s abyss. She spoke to him and helped guide him back to the bed to lie down. Cullen related that Jack had spoken back, though somewhat lazily, and, according to his wife, Jack had also moved to the bed on his own, with just a bit of manual guidance. Jack remembers nothing of this. His consciousness was preoccupied. “The only thing I remember is someone calling me back. Someone’s hands were on me. It was irritating. I started to become, well, angry. I didn’t want to leave the place I was at.”Campbell continued to weave in and out of awareness as the EMTs arrived, treated and transported him. After awakening more fully in the cath lab after the stent was in place, Jack continued to ponder his NDE. He asserts, “And I did come out of this with a different perspective. “I have no fear of death at this point. Be- cause I was standing right there, right at the brink, and there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of!” Campbell waxes philosophical, “It isn’t death that we’re afraid of. We’re afraid of the moments leading up to death, how much pain there’ll be, what unexpected things will hap- pen. But, death is your friend. It is taking you away from this intolerable situation.” Campbell is still making sense out of it all. “It will take me a while to adjust to this, compare it to the way I used to feel about death. But, now I’ve experienced the power of death, its power to release and give deep peace of heart and mind. I’m not afraid in the least.”Many might wish to know Campbell’s worldview and religious persuasion, perhaps looking for a hint as to how his “conceptual prism” affected his NDE. “I’m not a human institution religious type of person,” he admits. “Those are just made by people and they’re all limited, but I think there’s something behind them. I’m not closed-minded. “More than anything else, I’m a naturalist, you might say. “I grew up in a rural place, Grass Lake, Mich., which is much like the Cambridge area and Lake Ripley. The happiest times in my life was when I was sitting by the lake on a sunny day, listening to birds sing and watching all of nature working together as one. Everything worked together, I saw. “To me, I looked upon nature and the universe as a great sphere, where everything was in concert with everything else. Nothing was left out. All was included.” If anything, Jack Campbell’s NDE confirmed what his heart had already learned as a child: the universe is a self-contained unit that has a place for everyone and everything. It’s a settled matter, and accepting that the world works as a whole–however one does it–leads to a profound sense of peace.