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RSS feature story: Decorah resident Eric Burg is very thankful for local EMS

Posted: Sun, May 13, 2018 7:20 PM
Eric Burg stands as his fiance Amy Thompson kneels with their dogs Mya and Ammo

Thanks to the quick response of emergency medical services, stories like Eric Burg's have an encouraging ending, instead of the tragic ending that could have been.

Decorah resident Eric Burg was expecting February 1st to be business as usual on his job, trimming trees in Calmar.  Fellow workers had no idea as they were trimming the last tree of the day that they would end up calling 911 to help rescue Eric. When a tree branch turned and fell the wrong way, it landed on Eric. The branch pinned him to the ground, literally folding his body in half.

Within minutes of a 9-1-1 phone call, emergency responders, including South Winn First Responders, Calmar Fire, Winneshiek County Sheriff's Office, Calmar Police, Iowa State Patrol and the Winneshiek Medical Center Ambulance, arrived to help.

"They immediately took over emergency care, stabilizing me and instructing the tree crew to strategically remove branches," recalled Eric. When it was safe to move him to the helicopter (which had been called to the scene), the paramedics administered medication to relieve his pain.  Eric states his memory of the accident stops there.
Wendy Kuennen and Ben Shockey, both WMC critical care paramedics, were on duty that day.  Wendy says, "When the call came in, we immediately put Gundersen Air II helicopter on stand-by.  Fortunately, it was at the Decorah Airport, so response time would be just minutes to Calmar."  When the ambulance team arrived at the scene, tree removal work was well underway.  "Eric was sitting, kind of tangled among the tree, but the first responders, fire and law enforcement personnel who had arrived before us had cleared many of the branches.  We were able to get right to work," says Wendy.

As the paramedics prepared Eric for transport, other emergency personnel created a safe landing zone for the helicopter across the street in the Calmar swimming pool parking lot.  Wendy says, "We transported him in the ambulance across the street to where the helicopter had landed, and did the transfer."  She adds, "As we watched the helicopter take off, we both had the feeling he would be OK–-his vitals were good and we had done all we could.  The collaboration between every single emergency responder worked just as it was designed to, for the benefit of our patient."

Eric was airlifted and admitted to the intensive care unit at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. The accident had left him with 15 broken bones, mostly on his left side, including a fractured forehead, several ribs, his femur, left wrist, left foot and a collapsed lung.  After three major surgeries on his femur, foot and wrist within a week of his accident, he now has a 12-inch plate with 14 pins in his left leg, and seven screws in his left foot.

Eric was able to stand on his full weight on April 17th, after using various walkers months before to get around. Eric has been approved to drive.  He currently goes to therapy twice a week with Timothy Fechner of Oneota Physical Therapy, where they work on muscle building.

A handmade cane with a deer shed as the handle is how Eric gets around these days.  His positive attitude and willingness to push himself has helped his success in therapy.  Eric expressed his appreciation to all his friends and family who came to visit him while he was in the hospital.  He hopes to be back to work in August.

Eric naturally is a positive person and took a job trimming trees because he loves being outdoors. Eric said, "I had never broken a bone before this accident. I like to get outside and get my hands dirty. I know there are certain risks to the job I was doing and I have to accept that. I love it."