Keith Torgerud and his teammates took a route less traveled while navigating obstacles in a Tough Mudder challenge, veering from the endurance race to save a competitor’s life.
“We were in the right place at the right time,” Torgerud said of the May 10 event in Richmond, Wis., where they revived a man who had lost his pulse and quit breathing.
More important, they were in the right profession to morph into medical mode: The 39-year-old Holmen man is the respiratory care director at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, and the other five team members also practice the healing arts in varying ways.
Tough Mudders are 10- to 12-mile challenges that are several notches above the more tame mud runs of 5 miles or so, Torgerud explained. The tough option includes 25 to 30 military-type obstacles that make competitors overcome their fears of things such as electrical shock, heights, confined spaces, etc. — all amid liberal doses of mud, he said.
At about mile 5, Torgerud’s team saw members of another group crossing their arms above their heads — the mudders’ official signal that they need a medic — and screaming, he said.
Told that someone was having an asthma attack, Torgerud said, “I ran up there as fast as I could because I can help somebody with their breathing. He was in definite distress, then he started having a seizure, went pulseless and quit breathing.”
They began giving the man CPR while awaiting medics, he said. “We got him back once, then he went pulseless again.”
After two medics arrived with an automated external defibrillator, “we shocked him and he came back,” Torgerud said.
Torgerud left the race to accompany the medics on an ATV to take the man to an ambulance and then a local hospital.
“I went with the medics just to make sure they knew what happened,” he said. “The race was the last thing I was thinking about at that point. The needs of the patient always come first, and in that moment, I saw him as my patient.”
The man was “fighting and disoriented” on the trip, and he went into a full cardiac arrest at the hospital, Torgerud said.
The patient was revived again, and Torgerud went back to finish the race with other team members: his wife, Angie, a pharmaceutical rep; fellow Mayo-Franciscan respiratory therapist Tom Di Iorio of Stoddard; Dr. Will Schanhofer of Tomah, where he is a family physician at Mayo-Franciscan; Dr. Chad Thurman of La Crosse, a former Mayo resident who now practices family medicine at Gundersen Health System in Onalaska; and Stephanie Holmes of Phoenix, a nurse by training who now is a pharmaceutical rep.
Stepping into the breach was automatic, Schanhofer said, adding, “As a provider, I have a responsibility to help others even when I’m not at the hospital or clinic. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Schanhofer and Torgerud stressed that the quick availability of the AED was critical in saving the man’s life.
Torgerud also underscored the timing: “If we would have been faster or started our race later, we may not have been there to help the patient.
“Our whole team did a great job,” he said. “It was a good collaborative effort.”
Although Torgerud said he has been involved with several life-saving endeavors within hospital walls, he said this is the first time he has called upon those skills in the field.
Privacy regulations prevent the team from learning the man’s name, but Torgerud said they checked with the hospital after the race and confirmed that he was doing well.
The Tough Mudder creed echoes the Franciscan values of teamwork, loyalty and respect, along with the pledge, “I help fellow mudders,” Tolerud said.
“The values of Tough Mudder races are somewhat similar to what we believe at Mayo and as part of our Franciscan heritage, and that is to always be there in time of need,” he said. “When someone struggles, you help them.”
“The values of Tough Mudder races are somewhat similar to what we believe at Mayo and as part of our Franciscan heritage, and that is to always be there in time of need. When someone struggles, you help them.” Keith Torgerud, respiratory care director