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Minnesota man escapes death after cardiac arrest at a gym in Detroit Lakes

It started out just like a normal day. "I had just dropped Beth off at work," said Steve Hedstrom of his wife. The two had planned on going to the gym together that evening to walk, but as the retired Detroit Lakes man drove near the Detroit Lake...

It started out just like a normal day.

“I had just dropped Beth off at work,” said Steve Hedstrom of his wife. The two had planned on going to the gym together that evening to walk, but as the retired Detroit Lakes man drove near the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, he decided on a whim to stop in and shoot some basketball.

“I went upstairs, walked a couple of laps, then went downstairs and shot some hoops,” said Hedstrom. “And as I was going to put the ball away in the cage, I just all of a sudden got really weak feeling, and thought, I’ve got to sit down.”

Hedstrom didn’t just sit though - he slumped down in an unnatural way that caught the attention of Matt and Nicole Denevan, a married couple who were walking the track above.

“He was slumped over in an unnatural position, not resting against a wall or anything, so I knew right away that something major was wrong,” said Nicole Denevan, who works as a registered nurse in Detroit Lakes. Denevan says she and her husband immediately ran downstairs towards the gym, telling the woman at the front desk on the way to call 9-1-1.


“My husband and I and another man down there, turned him (Hedstrom) over, and he was unresponsive,” said Denevan, who says another woman she did not know rushed in to help as well. That woman was Bobbi Olson, also a nurse who happened to be there with her 2-year-old daughter.

And that “other man” was Dave Harman, a DLCCC staff member who had recognized Hedstrom as a regular member, “the left-handed guy who liked to shoot hoops and who was a pretty good shot.” Harman had just said “hi” to Hedstrom a few minutes earlier.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time because I was just walking back into the gym and saw that he was in distress,” said Harman. “We were checking his pulse and thought, no, we’ve got to start compressions.

Harman initiated compressions, but after only about four or five of them, the nurses stepped in to take over.

“I started doing CPR, and I remember tipping his head back and I could tell he was breathing,” said Denevan, who says at that point, another DLCCC staff member came with a defibrillator and they placed it on his chest without shocking it. Hedstrom had woken up just as a Detroit Lakes police officer had arrived with oxygen, which he began to give him. It was a little puzzling to the crew of strangers helping that Hedstrom was conscious again.

“He woke up and told us his name and what had happened and what medication he was taking, and then he kind of passed out again,” said Denevan.

That’s when the crew from St. Mary’s EMS showed up. According to accounts, by this time it had only been roughly four minutes since Hedstrom first dropped.

Although the defibrillator sitting on Hedstrom’s chest did not indicate he needed a shock, the human expertise in the EMS truck knew better.


Hedstrom wasn’t having a heart attack - he was having a sudden cardiac arrest, which means his heart had stopped beating altogether and was simply sitting there quivering, but not pumping. Although they were only going a matter of a few blocks, the EMTs didn’t wait to take action.

Hedstrom says he remembers waking up again briefly in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

“I looked up and saw they were just about to shock me with the paddles, and I thought, ‘oh, this is going to hurt,’” said Hedstrom. “And yeah, it did.”

Not only did the EMTs use that three block ride to shock Hedstrom’s heart into rhythm again, they also managed to quickly drill a hole in his leg to get an IV started. It’s a lifesaving procedure that medical professionals do to quickly tap into the body during cardiac emergencies, which tend to make finding a vein very difficult.

Hedstrom arrived at St. Mary’s Essentia Health, where they ended up shocking him one more time. He was stabilized and then transported to a Fargo hospital. Hedstrom had just survived something that is difficult to survive - a situation where every second counts.

Today, as he sits with a defibrillator implanted in his chest, he and his wife, Beth, look back to that day with tears in their eyes and gratitude for the group of strangers who did everything right.

“We know from the medical standpoint that the reason he is here today is because people at the gym started CPR and then got the EMTs there as quickly as possible,” said Beth Hedstrom, who says the crucial, initial response is what saved her husband’s life.

“All of these people were complete strangers, other than the gym staff,” she said. “But they all came together and did what needed to be done, and now they all pass off credit to each other.”


The Hedstroms have spoken with many of the key players involved in saving Steve’s life that day, including Dave Harman, Bobbi Olson, Nicole Denevan and even the police officer. None of them, say the Hedstroms, took the credit.

“Bobbi says ‘thank God Nicole was there.’ Nicole says ‘thank God Bobbi was there.’ (The police officer) says he didn’t do much and that the EMTs were to thank. Dave says it was the nurses who really did it all,” said Beth, laughing with tears in her eyes. She says there were four 9-1-1 calls that came in that morning from people at the DLCCC taking the initiative to make sure help was on the way.

“They all saved a man’s life that day, my husband,” said Beth, who says she and Steve have always had a philosophy that they’ve lived by.

“Life is short, take the scenic route, the long way home,” said Steve, smiling.

“Enjoy every day because life is precious and things can change in a second,” added Beth. “One minute my husband is dropping me off for work, then next minute, it’s a life or death situation.”

The Hedstroms have lived in Detroit Lakes their entire lives, but they say it was this one particular day that they realized how much they love their community and “the good people in it.”

“I live on Highway 59 and see those EMTs going back and forth all the time,” said Steve. “And I think now that they don’t get the credit they deserve for what they do.”

“I think that Steve has some guardian angels looking after him,” said Beth, “and some heroes right here on earth.”

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