Living with his dad, Michael DeJager had grown accustomed to the sound of his father’s snoring. But as he was lying in bed shortly after 10 p.m. on New Year’s Day, the 24-year-old Carol Stream resident heard something that gave him pause.
His father, who was asleep and snoring in the next room, started wheezing. “I thought, ‘That doesn’t sound right,'” Michael recalled. “It sounded very different.” When Michael went to check on his father, he found him in bed with his eyes rolled back and his lips turning blue. He had gone into cardiac arrest.
“His heart was still trying to beat,” he said.
Michael called 911 and started a chain of events that saved his dad’s life. The Carol Stream Fire Protection District recently recognized Michael, a police officer and six firefighter/paramedics for their combined efforts in saving his father — 56-year-old Mark DeJager. “It’s overwhelming,” Mark DeJager said after watching the March 13 ceremony at the fire station. Fire Lt. Dan Stelter, fire Lt. Craig Bevan, and firefighters Kevin Hencinski,
Kevin Hames, Kevin Gay and Dan Mulcahy were presented EMS Unit Citation awards. Michael DeJager and Carol Stream police officer Jeremy Kriese also were honored.
“I believe God sent all these people to help me,” Mark DeJager said. “It was a team effort.” Fire Chief Robert Schultz said Mark DeJager was “very lucky” that night because his son was there. “If no one else was home, the outcome would have been 180 degrees different,” Schultz said. After finding his father unresponsive and calling 911, Michael DeJager got him onto the floor and started doing CPR. A 911 operator talked him through it. Police officer Kriese showed up at the house within minutes. He took over CPR until the fire crews arrived. They immediately took over patient care and provided advanced life support. As he was being rushed to Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Mark DeJager was defibrillated (shocked) seven times. In his 23 years a firefighter, Hames said it was the first time he had to defibrillate someone that many times. “His heart didn’t want to give up,” Hames said. “So we didn’t give up.” By the time the ambulance arrived at the emergency room, Mark DeJager had normal sinus rhythm, officials said. After several weeks of treatment in the hospital and rehab, he has made a full recovery. “I’m feeling great,” said Mark DeJager, who is planning to return next month to his job as an aircraft mechanic. “I feel normal.” Because brain damage occurs within 4 to 6 minutes due to lack of oxygen, officials said the CPR conducted before the firefighters arrived was crucial. “We’re able to see today the outcome of everybody working together,” Kriese said after seeing Mark DeJager for the first time since the incident. “The fact that he’s standing here is something that we don’t get to experience too often.”
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