Campground Miracle

Jeff Grimm

By Jeff Grimm, ThedaStar flight nurse

The evening of Aug. 5, 2011, started out normally for campers at Evergreen Campsites and Resort near Wild Rose.  But the evening would turn out to be anything but normal for campers enjoying the pool area that evening. 

There was a very large crowd in and near the pool area, including John Hicken, firefighter/paramedic with Fond du Lac Fire Dept. and his family; Lt. Jason Laridaen with the Fond du Lac Police Department, and Kathy Brockman, a First Responder with the Town of Freedom in Outagamie County.  Little did these three know that very soon their knowledge would soon be put to use to save a young girl’s life.

Shortly before 6 pm, a swimmer found a child submerged in approximately 3.5 feet of water.  Makenzie Mathers, 6, was pulled from the pool by the man who discovered her and placed on the pool deck.  Hicken and Brockman had responded to the calls for help and immediately began resuscitative efforts with CPR.  After a few minutes of CPR, Makenzie began breathing on her own.  Brockman obtained an oxygen tank from the first responder kit in her vehicle and provided high-flow oxygen to Makenzie.  Saxeville First Responders and Waushara Co. EMS Paramedics arrived shortly afterward.  ThedaStar was requested to intercept with EMS at Wild Rose Community Memorial Hospital because Makenzie remained unresponsive. 

ThedaStar responded and met Waushara Co. EMS at the hospital landing zone.  Due to her diminished level of consciousness, an advanced airway was placed, and Makenzie was flown to Theda Clark Medical Center for trauma evaluation and resuscitation.  After confirming there were no other potentially life-threatening injuries, Makenzie was flown to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for pediatric ICU care. 

At Children’s Hospital, Makenzie made a remarkable recovery.  On Tuesday (Day 4), the chemical paralysis and sedation were eased off and she was weaned off the ventilator by later that afternoon.  Makenzie continued to recover quickly and was discharged home on Thursday, six days after the initial event. Thanks to the efforts of strangers, Makenzie was able to celebrate her 7th birthday a few weeks after drowning in a crowded pool. 

According to the 2002 World Congress on Drowning Expert Panel, “The highest priority is restoration of spontaneous circulation…”  Makenzie and her family are eternally grateful to the people who worked together to accomplish that goal last August.  Since that day, Makenzie and her family have made donations to Fond du Lac Police and Fire Departments to be utilized for public safety education and training.  They have also donated an oxygen tank and monument to the campground in tribute to the heroic efforts of those who helped Makenzie that August evening. 

Drowning was defined by the 2002 World Congress on Drowning as “a process resulting in primary respiratory impairment from submersion in a liquid medium.”  The outcome may include “delayed morbidity, delayed or rapid death, or life without morbidity.”  Drowning usually occurs silently and rapidly.

  • Frequently, the first sign is a motionless person floating in the water or quietly disappearing beneath the surface. 
  • Drowning is the sixth leading cause of accidental death for all age groups, the second leading cause of death for children ages 1-14.
  • There are approximately 10 deaths a day in the U.S., about 25 percent of are in children 14 or younger. 
  • For every child who dies, four 4 more receive care in the Emergency Department – 55 percent of these require hospitalization and/or transfer to a higher level of care.