BRAINERD, Minn. — Karla Milinovich shouldn't be alive.
She shouldn't be able to breathe. She shouldn't be able to walk. She shouldn't be able to do anything she loves or hates to do.
Milinovich should be dead. In fact, she died about four times nearly a year ago on July 25.
She doesn't remember a thing, but her family and friends who love her dearly remember. They remember every single detail. Every single emotion. Every single second of that afternoon and the seconds, minutes and days that what would follow.
It was the afternoon of July 25, 2018, about 4 p.m. Karla Milinovich and her husband, John Milinovich, who live in Arizona, were visiting their friends John and Sandra Monroe, who live on Ahrens Hill in Brainerd. The two couples spent most of the day in Walker and when they got back to Brainerd, Karla Milinovich and Sandra Monroe went for a walk. During the walk, Karla Milinovich felt queasy.
"I told Sandra I sometimes have this pain," Karla Milinovich said. She walked back to her friend's house and Monroe finished the walk.
Milinovich came home and told her husband she wasn't feeling well, so he told her to take two aspirin, take a nap and hopefully she would feel better for them all to go out for dinner.
They never made it to dinner.
Karla Milinovich was in the bedroom when she went into cardiac arrest. Her husband heard some "funny noises" from the bedroom and he knew something was wrong.
"It's funny because usually we stay upstairs but this time we stayed on the main floor," John Milinovich said. "We would have never heard her upstairs. We knew something was wrong right away and called 911. I tried to get her awake because she was out. The 911 dispatcher said we have to start CPR."
John Milinovich did CPR for what he said seemed like an eternity before Brainerd North Memorial Ambulance personnel—James Stultz, emergency medical technician, and Brandon Larson, a paramedic—arrived to take over lifesaving efforts.
After about 45 minutes of CPR efforts between John Milinovich and the ambulance crew, Karla Milinovich was transported to Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd and then airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital.
From the moment Karla Milinovich went into cardiac arrest to the moment she reached the St. Cloud hospital, those around her said she "flatlined" three to four times—her heart stopped beating. After 22 days in the hospital, she was sent home and has been doing well.
Karla Milinovich doesn't remember anything that happened but is forever grateful to all the emergency personnel who helped save her life. On Monday, June 3, she walked into Brainerd North Memorial Ambulance offices to thank Stultz and Larson.
It was instant tears and hugs.
"You guys were so good and it could have gone the opposite way, so easily, so many times," Karla Milinovich told them as she walked in. "I am like a miracle child.
"It's such an event to be brought back to life more than once. There are not enough words to explain (how) thankful I am. I'm here for a reason, I didn't go away. I am lucky. I had angels all around me and you guys were my angels."
"In our line of work, all we can ask for is appreciation," Larson said. "We all like what we are doing and we are always happy when it turns out, like the way it turned out for (Karla Milinovich).
"Oftentimes these things don't end up positively. So when we get feedback and see someone who has had such a positive outcome and has gotten their life back, it helps lift our spirits to get us through the ones who didn't make it. It makes all that hard work and the sad stories in between ... to get us through one call to the next."
Larson told the Milinoviches and the Monroes if it wasn't for John Milinovich doing CPR, things may not have turned out like they did.
"We had a little bit of a drive from where we were at to get to you," Larson said, delaying their response time. "I cannot tell you how important it was for you to do CPR and how good you did it. ... Honestly, you guys deserve as much credit (as you are giving us). I would have not been able to get her back if it wasn't for you. In that length of time it took us to travel to get to you, it would have been impossible to get her back without you guys."
Larson encourages everyone to know how to do CPR and to take classes, as it could save a life.
Kevin Lee, North Memorial Ambulance manager, said the national survival rate for someone who suffered cardiac arrest is about 10%—those who leave the hospital and turn out OK.
Lee said having patients come to thank the ambulance crew is valuable.
"There are so many cases where it doesn't work out where patients don't survive a cardiac arrest situation," Lee said. "It is really meaningful when it all comes together ... and everything worked out and the patient is doing great. That's very meaningful to the crew."
Karla and John Milinovich and the Monroes also visited the nurses in St. Cloud who helped her and also got a chance to thank and hug Sue Stunek, who works in the emergency room at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd and who stopped Monday at North Memorial.
"You had a fantastic staff and it is so nice to see you here and doing 100%," Stunek said to Milinovich.
Karla Milinovich said she is thankful to everyone who pushed her to get her well.
"I am so fortunate," she said. "Someone asked me what I was angry about and I said, 'Who's angry?' I'm not angry about anything, it happened. What I need is to move on with my life."
The Milinoviches, formerly of Brainerd, are enjoying their stay in the area once again with their friends. They said meeting the North Memorial Ambulance crew made their trip much more memorable.
"What you guys do is amazing," John Milinovich said.
According to the American Red Cross, in one year alone, 475,000 Americans die from a cardiac arrest. Globally, cardiac arrest claims more lives than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, influenza, pneumonia, auto accidents, HIV, firearms and house fires combined.
The American Red Cross also reports there are about 10,000 cardiac arrests in the workplace each year in the U.S.