Stroke victim saved by quick-thinking neighbor

John Schmitt collapsed while doing yard work with a neighbor, who called 911

Stroke victim saved by quick-thinking neighbor

John Schmitt of Dilworth, Minnesota, was splitting and stacking firewood in the yard with his neighbor Dick Schroeder when he suffered a stroke.

From the point that Schmitt fell to the ground he was dependent on others to save his life.

Thankfully, they were able to accomplish that by acting quickly.

“I looked around and he wasn’t around,” Schroeder said. “I looked on the ground and there he was. So I quick grabbed the phone and dialed 911.”

Get lifesaving care: Stroke and aneurysm care at Sanford Health

Schmitt couldn’t talk or move his right arm at the time. When he woke up in the hospital others had to fill him in on the details.

“I was helping him chop wood,” Schmitt said. “That’s about all I remember.”

Making the call

Schroeder set in motion this collaborative lifesaving effort by calling 911 immediately. He then got a blanket and a pillow for Schmitt and waited for the ambulance.

“That’s what they tell me — that I must have saved his life,” Schroeder said.

Dr. Alexander Drofa, a neurosurgeon at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota, agreed that Schmitt’s quick-thinking neighbor played a vital role.

“Time lost is brain lost. In John’s case, nobody wasted any time,” Dr. Drofa said. “They brought him right away. The neighbors recognized it. The EMS recognized it. They alerted us. We recognized it. We took him to the scan, we found the clot, we took it out. And there you go.”

Recognizing the signs

Schmitt was fortunate that he was around others when he suffered his stroke. Some aren’t so lucky, so it’s important to be familiar with the BE FAST signs.

Call 911 right away if you experience these symptoms:

  • B: Sudden loss of balance
  • E: Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • F: Facial drooping, usually on one side
  • A: Arm weakness (one arm hangs or drifts down)
  • S: Speech difficulties such as slurring
  • T: Time to call 911 now

Schmitt doesn’t remember experiencing any of the stroke signals, nor did Schroeder detect any while the pair chopped wood. The reaction was nevertheless as quick as it could have been.

“You have to get help the first hour,” Cindy Schmitt said. “Every minute counts. John’s lucky and I’m lucky. And we had great neighbors.”

Strokes and aneurysms can cause long-term disabilities, but newer treatments are lowering the risk of lasting damage. You can receive lifesaving care at Sanford Health, including less invasive procedures that offer shorter recovery times.

Learn more

Posted In Brain & Spine, Family Medicine, Fargo, Neurology, Rehabilitation & Therapy, Vascular