Right place, right time, and a teen’s life is saved
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com July 10, 2013 8:00PM
Nurse Sarah Kane is being credited with helping save the life of Nick Theilgaard, 16, of Midlothian. | Supplied photo
Updated: August 12, 2013 11:47AM
Because of his rare heart condition, Nick Theilgaard no longer can play baseball, a game he loves.
In fact, he can’t take part in any strenuous activity at all, lest he risk death.
But the 16-year-old Midlothian boy is taking it all in stride. He knows that if not for the quick thinking and actions of a Christ Medical Center nurse and her podiatrist fiance, the Theilgaard family on Wednesday would have been at his funeral instead of preparing to welcome him home.
Nick and his parents, Diane and Dave, were practically giddy as they met media members Wednesday in Nick’s room at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.
They are thankful that fate had the aforementioned nurse, Sarah Kane, and doctor, Brian Wittmayer, in a position to save Nick’s life.
Nick can find another sport — he’s leaning toward golf — but he only has one life.
The efforts of Kane and Wittmayer kept Nick alive for 10 minutes until paramedics arrived Sunday at Houlihan’s, 16153 S. LaGrange Road, Orland Park, where Nick had lost consciousness after lunch with his mother and a family friend.
“Without Sarah, Nicholas would not have survived,” said Dr. Ira Shetty, a pediatric cardiologist at Christ and Nick’s doctor.
Diane Theilgaard said Nick grabbed his forehead and said, “I feel weird” moments after lunch Sunday.
“His eyes rolled back in his head and he started making gurgling noises,” she said. “My friend Carrie (Violetto) braced his fall. Someone yelled, ‘911.’ He began turning blue instantly. Someone went into the restaurant, Sarah and Brian were there and they began working on him.
“It was absolutely horrific. He was a purply blue. At first, I thought he was choking. It was absolutely terrible,” Diane said.
It’s no wonder she blinks back tears when recounting the 10-minute ordeal. Nick is the couple’s only child.
Nick suffers from arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, a condition that causes the heart muscle to slowly change into fatty tissue, causing the heart to pump less efficiently, making it prone to abnormal rhythms, Shetty said. The family learned in May that he had the condition.
Shetty is amazed at the mature manner in which Nick, who will be a senior at Bremen High School, has taken the news that his baseball days there are over.
“I pitch and play right field. ... well, not any more,” Nick said, sitting comfortably in his hospital room Wednesday afternoon. “I’m glad to be here.”
Nick is still “here” because Kane and Wittmayer spent 10 minutes keeping his heart beating. Their “high-quality CPR” kept him alive and kept blood flowing, thus preventing damage to his brain, Shetty said.
“Nick came back, he had a pulse for less than 30 seconds. He then had no pulse so we started CPR again,” said Kane, of Orland Park. “We got lucky.”
A rap music fan, Nick has recorded on his phone his own rap song about his medical ordeals since being diagnosed with the rare heart problem.
He now wears a vest 24/7 that will deliver lifesaving shocks to his heart if it again goes into defibrillation. Eventually, a defibrillator will be implanted under the skin, along the bottom of his rib cage and breast bone, to keep his heart beating properly.
Nick’s grandmother, Mary Lou Udoni, said “it’s a miracle” that Nick’s life was saved.
“I’ve been praying for miracles from God, so He’d better keep going,” she said. “I’m just so glad.”
So is Nick. Despite heart-related incidents in August and March, and the latest brush with death, he still has his sense of humor.
“You know how the nurse saved me. She was doing CPR and her fiance gave me mouth-to-mouth. He says I owe him a chicken sandwich because he gave me mouth-to-mouth. I told him he owes me dinner because he made out with me,” Nick said.