A ‘small-town’ story of how one man’s life was saved

MORRIS, Ill. — Ken Iverson calls the time the community came together to save his life a "small-town Morris story."

A retired teacher and coach who now runs a basketball program at the local YMCA, Iverson says just about everyone in Morris knows who he is.

"I was born here, went away to college for four years and came back. I did the math once; 15,000 to 20,000 kids have been under my supervision as a student or ballplayer," Iverson said.

Then one day, Iverson was helping out with the surprise party of a YMCA staffer. It was his job to bring the honoree to the Carson Tap House, but a surprise awaited Iverson as well.

"I read a little poem and we were having fun," Iverson remembers. "Next thing I know — from what I’ve been told — I was on the ground."

Fortunately, Iverson says, his fellows from the YMCA are trained in CPR and first aid and they started to work on him immediately. Just six blocks away, Sergeant Paul Clampitt with the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department was on his way back to the station at the end of his shift when he heard the call.

"I heard the ambulance be paged out for unresponsive person and CPR in progress," Clampitt said. "It probably took between 40 seconds and a minute for me to get there."

All Grundy County sheriff's deputies carry Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in their cars, so Clampitt brought one along "out of habit," he said, as he rushed to the scene of to the call.

"A lot of times in the rural areas of the county it can take an ambulance 20 minutes to a half-hour to respond somewhere, depending on where they are at, and if we just happen to be in the area it’s great to have that tool," Clampitt said.

The device came from Dr. Aristides de la Hera, an interventional cardiologist in town who offered 15 of them to the local sheriff after he finished up a research study.

"In between Joliet and Moline you have 225 miles of corn fields. If you have a cardiac arrest on a farm in a very rural setting people might not get there very quickly," Dr. de la Hera said. "The sheriff was very accommodating; he was more than happy to train the officers and put them in the squad cars."

While Ken’s YMCA colleagues performed CPR, Sgt. Clampitt arrived with the AED.

"At that time I had no idea who it was," Clampitt said.

For the first few seconds, he had no idea the man he was working to save was his old teacher, Ken Iverson.

"The machine did its job it started analyzing, checking for a pulse. It detected that there was no pulse and the machine then advised to administer a shock," Clampitt said. "Shortly after that, I looked over my shoulder and Morris Fire Department and EMS were there, so it was a big sigh of relief that they could take him and they started breathing for him."

Ken was transported down the street to Morris Hospital, where doctors were able to quickly reopen his blocked artery and place a stent.

"He had a cardiac arrest, he had no blood pressure, no pulse and would have been dead in five minutes if somebody wouldn’t have done something," Dr. de la Hera said. "He got exactly what he needed: he got bystanders who got involved, who did CPR on him; the Grundy City Sheriff’s Department showed up and shocked him back into a regular rhythm."

Iverson is hoping his story will encourage more businesses in Morris to have AEDs on hand, and he’s heard from other sheriff’s departments interested in carrying AEDs on board their vehicles. Instead of losing his life from the experience, he says he came out with something more instead.

"Paul and I will be tied together now in a bond that for me for the rest of our lives," Iverson said. "We were casual friends after he graduated but now we’ll be brothers; maybe father and son."