- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - Nancy Karlen is a thankful, faithful woman.

Her faith was made even stronger by not just a second, but third chance at life.

Just more than three years ago she was going about her usual grocery run at Ken’s SuperFair Foods. It was late in the afternoon when she finished paying and turned to head out the door. She didn’t make it.

Her heart stopped. She went down. A store worker called 911.

That is when Karlen, who will turn 74 this month, started counting her blessings, which seemed to line up one after the other.

A young police officer on duty was nearby. He arrived and immediately started CPR.

“That young man showed up in two minutes,” Karlen said as she spoke from her home on Wednesday. “They say, ‘What a coincidence,’ but I know it’s something more than that. God was in charge.

“Then the paramedics came and did that big machine thing,” she said. “It was remarkable as well.”

Karlen was referring to an automatic chest compression system. The machine administers automated compressions on a person whose heart is stopped. It’s powerful and can sometimes break or crack ribs. But Karlen escaped without injury.

That was on Feb. 28, 2014. And Karlen said one of the things on her “bucket list” was to share her serendipitous story.

The Aberdeen American News (https://bit.ly/2m6xTDn ) reported that a heart team at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital was about to leave at the end of their shift that day. But they heard the call and hung around the hospital.

“It was kind of unique that certain things had to happen,” said Dean Karlen, Nancy’s husband. “That officer had to be there. That ambulance had to be there. That heart team was there. Everything was lined up just right for us.

“They had me fully prepared that she might not make it,” he said. “All our family lives right here in Aberdeen. That’s quite a rude awakening in the middle of the afternoon.”

But Nancy Karlen’s fortunate run in the midst of dire circumstances wasn’t over.

Some at the hospital were concerned that she could suffer a stroke if her organs were restarted too quickly. She said a man in the room had an idea that could ward off such potential problems.

He suggested that Nancy Karlen’s body be cooled with ice so that her organs could slowly be brought back. The procedure worked, the proof being that Karlen is still alive.

Despite her efforts, Karlen said that she has not been able to find out the identity of the man who suggested the icing method.

She said she doesn’t remember a lot of the incident or the days that followed. She remembers her adult grandchildren’s recollection, though.

“All I remember, when I came to, I looked around and my adult grandchildren were all standing there, and I guess I told them, ‘You are the most beautiful children I have ever seen,’” Karlen said.

What a moment it was for her to see her blessings laid out in front of her after such a harrowing experience.

Karlen said she didn’t have a spiritual, near-death experience when her heart stopped. But she did 40 years ago, when she was 33.

That instance proved to be every bit as touch and go. She said she collapsed from hemorrhaging due to female-related complications.

It was her husband who saved her then, making a quick decision to take his wife, literally, in his arms. He carried her to an ambulance, which hauled them from a hospital in Winona, Minnesota, to a specialist in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

Nancy Karlen said the last-ditch effort saved her life - for the first time.

“Then I had a spiritual rapture type thing - floating through the air and wanting to go to the warm light,” Karlen said. “Then all of a sudden I could feel the spirit of my parents. The only thing I can think about . Dad died when I was 5, Mom died when I was 17, so it felt that death was consuming me.

“The spiritual experience was absolutely frightening to me in a way,” she said. “Someone gave me the book ‘Life After Death,’ and we read that together. We both looked at each other and I said, ‘Dean that’s everything I experienced.’”

“How people go through that, those experiences - without any faith - how frightening that must be,” Dean Karlen said with disbelief. “But we had our faith.”

The Karlens, married 56 years come June, have since added a great-grandchild to their family, something Nancy Karlen said gives her another reason to be alive. She said God isn’t finished with her yet.

Now when she does her regular grocery runs to Ken’s, she said she gets a lot of acknowledgement.

“Everyone asks, ‘How are you? You OK? Going to the doctor?’” she said. “It’s like I have an adoptive family. It’s like Cheers when I go into Ken’s. Everybody knows your name.”


Information from: Aberdeen American News, https://www.aberdeennews.com

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