The driver went quiet and unresponsive. He was suffering a heart attack. Jeron Baalson knew what to do.
According to WCCO Minnesota, the 16-year-old sophomore, who is autistic, was being taken home on the school van driven by Greg Engelke, a 64-year-old driver for the New London-Spicer School District. Baalson and Engelke were the last persons on the van when the heart attack occurred.
As the trip continued, Baalson noticed that Engelke was suffering the first stages of a heart attack; he had become somewhat rigid and unresponsive. Baalson went to Engelke, and the 16-year-old Willmar resident tried to engage Engelke in conversation.
“I asked him a question, and he didn’t respond,” Baalson said. Baalson knew Engelke was having a heart atttack.
The van then slowed down then crashed into a ditch along the Kandiyohi County Road 40.
“He kind of gripped the wheel and suddenly started recessive convulsions,” Baalson said. “He was stiff.” The heart attack was now in full effect.
Baalson, who is a Boy Scout, then used the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training to sustain a heart attack victim the Scouts offered. Baalson began chest compressions on Engelke. When that proved ineffective, Baalson rolled the heart attack victim out of the van, onto the ground, and continued CPR. An unidentified man passing by the scene assisted Baalson in moving Engelke.
“One of the signs (of a heart attack) that kind of gave it away was the droopy eyes,” Baalson said. “When you have a heart attack, you have those droopy eyes, and pretty soon he started having seizure. I had a memory back to this Quantum Leap show. My mom said the one of the characters was having a heart attack.”
According to Valley News Live, Baalson discontinued CPR and grabbed the van’s two-way radio requesting assistance.
“The first thing I said was, ‘May Day, May Day, May Day!'” he said. “It’s the first thing that came to mind because I was doing the emergency preparedness merit badge and learning the emergency distress call.”
Baalson’s radio plea reached the ears of Sig Holme, an employee of the Palmer Bus Service and the fire chief of New London.
“I had to figure out where he was at first,” Holme said. “This particular van goes from New London to Willmar out to Norway Lake. So I was trying to figure out where he was on the route.”
Holme established the location, and an ambulance was relayed to the location. Paramedics arrived and continued Baalson’s CPR. Engelke was then taken to the hospital, where, despite Baalson’s and the paramedics best efforts, the heart attack took his life.
“I hope he is in God’s hands,” Baalson said of Engelke, who was married and had grandchildren.
Baalson has been recognized by the American Heart Assocition, the New London-Spicer School Board and Baalson’s local Boy Scout chapter.
[Image courtesy of Grand Forks Herald]