Posts Tagged: decorah

Interview with Winneshiek County Paramedics

By Mary Marx

Steve Vanden Brink

Staring out my window at leaves falling from a crab apple tree, Steve Vanden Brink replays a scene in his mind – I watch as he carefully weighs his willingness to share a story.

Steve is a paramedic specialist. He’s one of the few who respond when your car is wedged between two trees or when you’re helplessly lying on the bathroom floor. He gives life-saving breath and coaxes your heart to beat on its own. Steve brings calm to your chaos.

He apparently reaches some conclusion and our conversation resumes. “I see death and dying more than your average person. One day, three people died…traumatically… in 12 hours. They were young,” Steve says to the corner of my desk. “Every call affects each paramedic differently – over the past 20 years, there are always those calls that stand out.”

Steve studies the notes he prepared for this very interview. “It was maybe 15 years ago – I worked the night shift – and the ambulance was dispatched to a home birth. We delivered the baby; that’s not something we get to do very often. The crew brought both mother and baby to the hospital for care and then, about an hour later we were called to a house – to a family just like the one celebrating a new child – to try to revive an unresponsive infant. We gave that child all we had, our combined expertise, our equipment, everything, but the baby died.”

In this profession, nights like these are sad realities. But there is also life. There is beauty in the eyes of someone whose pain has subsided and joy in the monotonous tones of a heart once again beating on its own.

“I heard a call for first responders to the home of one of my friends,” says Steve. “He’d collapsed while getting ready for a night out – his wife found him. I got there first and did CPR until the ambulance arrived. The paramedics on duty shocked him with the defibrillator – and we waited for the beep to start, but nothing happened. And then, the lines on the screen began to move. Everything worked that night – it happened the way it should – and now I see him jogging through town, enjoying the life he almost lost.”

Dave Neinhaus

“You have to absorb the good moments,” says paramedic Dave Nienhaus. “You have to let those happy endings fill you up… and enjoy them.”

Dave’s first happy ending earned him the gratitude of the patient, and a canned ham.

“I was a first responder at the time – pretty green, I was out only two years. I heard the call and arrived on scene, shocked the patient and her heart began beating again. Not too long afterward, she stopped over to my house, gave me a hug and pressed a canned ham into my hands.  It was such a touching – and memorable – gift; I don’t think I will ever forget it.”

In Dave’s mind, paramedics are not in the business of “saving lives.”

“Whether or not someone lives, that is between the patient and God,” he says. “If they are to live, and I am part of that plan, I am happy to serve and will do so to the very best of my ability.”

Training and experience play a significant role in a paramedic’s ability to help a patient, but “good equipment and new technology make it a whole lot easier.”

The Advanced Life Support monitors the Winneshiek Medical Center Foundation is raising funds for this year through Festival of Trees allow paramedics to attend multiple things at once. The monitors will hook up with the chest compression machine and deliver shocks as needed. The paramedics will be able to provide better care, and that means more happy endings.

“People expect us to come busting into their home, perform CPR and shocks and then whisk the patient back to the ER where they will make a full recovery – kind of like it happens on TV,” says Dave. “When this happens in the real world, it is a kind of euphoria – like you are experiencing the scene from somewhere on the ceiling. You watch hands placing the machine on someone’s bare skin, see their chest rise with returning breath – it is surreal. And then, you meet them walking to cardiac rehab two weeks later and you know you had a part in it.”

Occasionally the happy ending is more bittersweet.

“Sometimes, if we can bring someone back, it is just long enough to say goodbye to loved ones,” Dave says. “We don’t save them in a physical way, but it brings a sort of acceptance to the family. Like I said, I don’t save lives – I just help people.”

Dave Reutlinger

He’s been there. Dave Reutlinger has provided emergency care for people as long as I have been alive – 29 years – and I cannot even fathom the different experiences that have shaped him into who he is today.

Dave is nationally certified in … and a specialist in… and licensed in…, but amid all the accolades, I get the feeling that experience is his true teacher. Yet he is anything but boastful. As I attempt to understand the whys and hows that are his life’s work, Dave is reluctant to share too much. This man carries within him some the most personal experiences of many of us reading this very article– his stories are ours.

“When we are on our way to a call – maybe a car accident – we make our plan,” Dave says. He explains that everything makes a difference in what to expect: the voice inflection of the dispatcher (which could mean a serious call or an over-excited caller reporting the accident), the weather conditions, time of day, even the way the glass is broken or the vehicle is dented or the smell of the scene when they arrive.

I can imagine that his kind face and quiet way of speaking would bring calm to even the most frantic of patients. “If we can, we get in the car with the patient – talk to them while starting IVs or assessing their injuries,” says Dave. “We explain what the sounds mean – the snapping and banging of the metal roof being cut away, why the car is swaying, that we are doing everything we can for them.”

Dave stresses that they are not alone in their task.

“The entire emergency system is… interconnected, on the scene with first responders, law enforcement, the fire department,” he says. “And when we return to the emergency department –everyone has a hand in saving a life.”

Josh Moore

Time is constant. Seconds turn to minutes, minutes to hours. But it doesn’t always seem that way.

“Time had never moved so slowly,” recalls Josh Moore. “We were waiting for the defibrillator to give us direction after the shock. It only takes about 10 seconds to analyze, but when a teenager is lying at your side without a pulse, those 10 seconds…”

His eyes are bloodshot and he offers a weary smile – it is seven in the morning and time for him to go home. It was a quiet night in the emergency department, though that is something to never even suggest in the presence of the staff who work there. Josh willingly puts off a good night’s (day’s) sleep for 10 more minutes to share the memory of what he calls, “his first save.”

“I worked with my dad and a few other guys in a basic ambulance service. We got the call of a man down at the school, and following our protocol, ran lights and sirens to get there, though it was only a few blocks from our garage.”  Josh was the baby, the newbie, green. “When we rolled up to the school, it was my job to get the jump kit while the others went to the patient. We only knew someone was down in the gym; I assumed in my head they had hurt their ankle – something pretty minor.”

Josh focuses on a point somewhere above my head and continues, “He was only 19. It was a scrimmage game, something for fun. He fell past the three-point line, just short of the hawk emblem painted in the center of the floor, and his teammates could only stand over their friend – they knew his pulse was gone. I was the one who placed the defibrillator patches on his chest. I remember the lump in my throat as the machine said, ‘shock advised,’ and I pushed the button and watched his body jerk… and waited.”

After 10 painstaking seconds, the defibrillator advised the paramedics to begin chest compressions once more. “I started compressions,” says Josh, “and just willed his heart to begin beating. And then, against the heel of my hand, under his sternum, I felt pounding – I actually experienced his heart come back to life.”

He goes on. “We delivered the patient to the nearest emergency room and were heading back out to the garage when the doctor stopped us – he told us, ‘He’s in there talking to his family because of you guys. Congratulations,’ – and it was at that moment I committed to this path – one of day shifts and night shifts, adrenaline rushes and lulls. I want to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Mary Marx is a life-long Winneshiek County-ian, and is proud of her family and this year’s garden. Her favorite things include crushing hugs from her two sons, a good cosmopolitan and watching the sun set from her back porch with her husband, who also happens to be her best friend.

Interview with Artist Ashley Dull

By Aryn Henning Nichols

Ashley Dull Lindeman’s enthusiasm is infectious. She bustles through the door of a downtown Decorah coffee shop with arms full of paintings, at least one still mildly wet. We hug – I’ve known Ashley since she was seven and her sister and I were best friends in the fourth grade – and we both speak at once.

“I haven’t seen you since that time we talked about changing the world,” I say.

She laughs, “I’m still trying to change the world…somehow.”

This earnest mission is at the root of what inspires Ashley in her art. She’s not jaded. And, no, there isn’t supposed to be a “yet” on the end of that sentence. Maybe she’s naïve. But who cares? She’s definitely not cocky, especially for a 26-year-old who is actually making a living at art in the Twin Cities, a place loaded with talented artists and creative folk. No, Ashley is willing to admit she’s got a lot to learn

“I’m still trying to figure out this world – I don’t know enough about anything, really,” she says humbly.

She does know a thing or two around a canvas. If it weren’t for the amazing texture created by the carefully molded piles of still-wet paint, her nature-inspired pieces could be photos. Really dimensional photos, almost like you could walk right in.

“I want people to say, ‘I wanna touch that. I wanna be there,’” she says. “I will be out walking in the woods, touching everything, enjoying the peace that nature brings – I want to put that in my paintings. I want to make people feel good.”

Ashley’s upbringing on a small farm in between Postville and Decorah was full of the big skies, beautiful trees, and picturesque landscapes of the Driftless Region. A walk in the woods could inspire as many as three-dozen future paintings. Perhaps this is where the passion she’s had for art “since forever” began.

Nurtured by teachers with good foresight – Postville High School’s Rose Schutte and Luther College’s Doug Eckheart being two major mentors – Ashley took the encouragement they gave her, “You really have something here,” and ran with it. She graduated from Luther College in 2005 with a double major in health and art. And like many recent graduates, she wasn’t sure what was next.

“I thought, ‘What am I doing? Where am I going?’” she says. “But I did feel that it was possible to really do it, to be an artist.”

It certainly wasn’t a straight shot to galleries and commissions from there though. She moved to the Twin Cities to work as a personal trainer, painting in her free time. In 2007 she finally applied for her first art fair in Edina. And got in. During that show Ashley met her now “art agent” Jack McCauley. McCauley helped her put together her first gallery show in Roseville and it was a huge success. This was the affirmation Ashley needed to paint more, train less. McCauley continues to represent her work today.

Her pieces have since been shown in seven galleries – along with four shows in the next two months alone – and she landed a lengthy internship with nationally known Twin Cities artist Pamela Sukhum. Now, just two short years since Ashley’s first show, she’s armed with a wealth of new skills and information for her life both as an artist and as a self-employed business owner.

“It is still a business, and I need to make money,” Ashley says. “If art takes me there, then okay.”

She has learned it’s a lot of paperwork. And marketing. And networking. And while it’s fun to envision a future of grandeur, she’s not expecting it – perhaps doesn’t even want it.

“You know, I think it crossed my mind what I was younger, ‘Maybe I want to be this famous artist,’ but now – I could care less about fame. I want to bring peace and beauty to people’s lives,” she says, earnest once again.

She also wants to bring hope to people’s lives, and attempts this through a “giving back promise.” Ashley donates a small percentage of sales at her shows to an organization she’d like to support. The exhibits in the Twin Cities have been tied with non-profit organizations mainly dedicated to helping at-risk youth. For her Decorah show, running from October 1 through 31at The Perfect Edge on Washington Street, Ashley has, we’re humbled to say, chosen Inspire(d) Media as the organization she’d like to support.

“I believe in what you’re doing and want to help if I can,” Ashley writes in an email after informing us of her choice. She’s also really excited to have her paintings in the town of her alma mater.

“I always hoped – and sort of knew – I’d do a Decorah show,” she says. “So many of my paintings are Decorah landscapes.”

In addition to the giving back promise, Ashley has a few other traditions tied to her work: She always picks a theme – the current show is entitled “From Darkness to Light,” inspired by the prayer of St. Francis ­– and she always hides a bible verse somewhere in each painting. Don’t get worked up – she isn’t really a beater of said bible – she just relates many of the verses to her experiences in nature: feelings of calm, peace, love, joy, beauty, change, and new life. It’s by translating these experiences to her paintings that she plans to change the world.

“If I can help someone feel a connection to the world around us and a sense of purpose in this life,” she writes, “then I know I have done right by my talent.”

Aryn Henning Nichols truly believes you can change the world with passion (the good kind) and positive actions. When she was 21, she said this to someone and they told her she’d just wasn’t jaded yet. It’s been a happy seven years in the so-called land of bunnies and unicorns. She’s not planning on leaving any time soon.

For more information and to check out some of Ashley’s art, visit artbyashleydull.com

 

From Steam to Gasoline: The Tractor!


By Benji Nichols | Image above courtesy Randy Leffingwell, LA Times

There are few inventions in history that have literally changed the landscape like the modern tractor. Steam locomotives were being primitively built as early as the late 1700s in Europe and then America, but it wasn’t until the mid 1800s that steam technology was applied to “Locomobiles” or traction engines (tractor for short!). These early replacements for draft horses were incredible inventions, but also proved to be slow, heavy, and cumbersome. This is where the story of the tractor takes an interesting turn on a little road in Northeast Iowa.

John Froelich was born November 24, 1849 in Giard, Iowa. The first of nine children born to German settlers Johannes Heinrich (Henry) Froelich and Kathryn Gutheil, his life work went far beyond the typical farm – he operated a grain elevator near Froelich, Iowa and ran a threshing operation in Langford, South Dakota. As the story goes, John Froelich was fascinated by steam-driven machinery and farm implements. And not only that: he also worked on them and understood their weaknesses. In 1890 Froelich purchased a gasoline internal combustion engine from the Van Duzen Engine Works in Cincinnati, Ohio, to run his grain elevator. While working with the engine at his elevator he began to tinker with the idea of using the gasoline engine to power a traction engine.

In 1892 Froelich mounted a single-cylinder Van Duzen engine on a Robinson chassis with a traction system of his own design and thus created the very first internal combustion-powered tractor that moved forward and backward, and could also power a threshing machine. Froelich’s sidekick and assistant, William Mann, helped him transport the machine by rail to their South Dakota operation and proceeded to use it to power their J.I. Case threshing machine through 72,000 bushels of grain in 52 days.

On the heels of this accomplishment, a group of investors backed Froelich and formed the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company in 1893. But unfortunately they only built four of Froelich’s tractors – two of which were returned by unsatisfied customers. In 1895 the company became the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company and went to work building small stationary gas engines for such uses as pumping water and powering grain elevators. Froelich soon left the company and the Waterloo Company changed hands more than once in the early 1900s, but eventually began to produce the “Waterloo Boy” gas engine farm tractors, a design much like the one John Froelich brought to the company more than a decade before. By 1918, Waterloo Boy had produced three models of the tractor including the LA, R, and N models with over 8,000 tractors sold.

In 1918, The John Deere Company in Moline made a bid of $2.2 million dollars to acquire the Waterloo Boy Tractor Company, thus taking on the most successful modern tractor company of its time, and all of this built off of John Froelich’s original design for the gasoline internal combustion traction engine. John Froelich went on from his early tractor-building endeavor to create engines at the Novelty Iron Work in Dubuque, and then worked with his brother Gottlieb in manufacturing before moving to St. Paul. He was a life-long inventor, credited with such things as a washing machine, dish washer and dryer, a mechanical corn picker, and the first air conditioner that later became the Carrier Air Conditioning Company. In the late 1920 Froelich caught some more bad luck working in the investment world. The great crash of 1929 wiped out much of his livelihood and savings and he spent the final years of his life with his daughter, Jenetie, in St. Paul where he passed away in 1933. He was never recognized for his inventions until decades later. Froelich was inducted into the Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame in 1991. To this day, his name sits on the sidelines in the history of the common farm tractor, but it was indeed his invention and tinkering with the old Van Duzen single cylinder engine that led to one of the world’s most important agricultural implements.

PHOTO COURTESY FROELICH FOUNDATION

Today the village of Froelich, Iowa sits perfectly captured and re-built as a still-shot from a century ago. A model of John Froelich’s tractor rests outside the refurbished general store. Once a year the village comes alive with action from all over the tri-state area for the annual “Fall-der-All.”

“Fall-der-All” is the annual celebration of the Froelich Tractor and attractions, including the Burlingame General Store Museum, Tractor Museum, one-room country school, blacksmith shop and more. It’s an opportunity for those that love vintage farm equipment to bring their collection in and show it off,” says Froelich foundation President Denny Eilers.

This year, the festival and fundraiser will take place September 26-26, with a variety of displays and activities suitable for the whole family.

The Froelich Foundation board-of-directors is an all-volunteer group that manages the museum, grounds, and historic preservation of Froelich.

“The town of Froelich is significant in agricultural history as it’s the birthplace of the modern farm tractor,” Eilers says. “The Froelich Tractor is the direct ancestor to today’s John Deere tractor division in Waterloo, Iowa, and around the world. There is a huge amount of history coming out of this small village, as historians credit the modern farm tractor as the key tool that helps American farmers create an abundant food supply for our country, plus produce enough to export to other countries. It’s a history we treasure, and the Froelich Foundation was started 21 years ago as a non-profit group of volunteers to preserve this history and pass it down to the next generation.”

You can find out more about the story of John Froelich, the village named after his family, and the annual Fall-der-All by visiting the Village of Froelich located on Highway 18 between Monona and McGregor, Iowa – open through September from 11 am to 5 pm daily except for Wednesdays, and weekends in October. More information and history at www.froelichtractor.com or by calling (563) 536-2841.

Benji Nichols has been fascinated with old tractors and single-piston-engines for as long as he can remember his Grandpa tinkering with them. He looks forward to the Froelich Fall-der-All and Hesper/Mabel Steam Engine days every fall and someday hopes to learn how to engineer steam tractors.