Samaritans and CPR keep man alive

Curt Swarm - Empty Nest

Empty Nest

The heat and humidity were almost unbearable on Monday, July 17, even at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, when Marilyn and Bill Knox went for their daily walk around East Lake Park in Mt. Pleasant. 87-year-old Bill Knox found it difficult to breathe, but he wasn’t one to complain. Bill doesn’t remember the walk or getting in the car to drive his wife and himself home. Bill Knox, unbeknownst, to his wife, Marilyn, was in the early stages of cardiac arrest.

Leaving East Lake Park, the blacktop road passes over Highway 218 and comes to a T intersection. Bill continued straight. Marilyn shouted, “Turn, turn, turn!” to no avail.

The Knox car went airborne, coming down so hard it flattened a tire on a concrete foundation. Marilyn, even though she had a cracked sternum and compression fracture of the spine from the accident, was able to exit the vehicle, crawl up a steep embankment, and flag down a passing motorist.

Dwight Alvine, also of Mt. Pleasant, was on his way to work. Seeing the woman in distress, he pulled over. When he saw the wrecked vehicle in the ditch, he pulled out his phone and dialed 911 while giving aid to Marilyn.

Mike Mathews of Mt. Pleasant was also on his way to work. Seeing the woman lying on the side of the road with a backpack on, and a man waving and apparently giving aid to the woman, he was totally confused. He thought Marilyn must have been a walker or jogger along side the road. When he pulled over, he saw the vehicle in the ditch. Dwight Alvine pointed at the car, indicating that Mathews should check on the driver.

As Mathews approached the vehicle he could see the driver collapsed and unconscious behind the wheel. He ran to the driver’s side, but the door was locked. He ran back around to the passenger side and opened the door. Bill Knox looked to be in pretty bad shape, and was gasping for air. Mike Mathews is a dentist and has had CPR training. He felt Bill Knox’s carotid artery for a pulse. There was no pulse. He reached over and unlocked the driver’s-side door, went back around the car, pulled Bill Knox from the vehicle, and commenced CPR. He had gone through four cycles of CPR, rocks digging into his knees, when the Mt. Pleasant Police arrived with an AED (Automated External Defibrillator.) He helped the policeman place the patches, stood up to relieve his knees, and watched the AED initiate a shock.

Paramedics arrived and took over. Bill Knox was loaded into the ambulance and transported, first to the Henry County Health Center Emergency Room, then to Mercy Hospital in Iowa City. In route to HCHC, paramedics were able to establish a pulse.

Bill Knox was in the hospital six days, and had a defibrillator installed in his chest. He looks to be in pretty good shape now. You would never know he had a heart attack.

Thanks to the quick action of Dwight Alvine, and the CPR of Mike Mathews, which maintained circulation while an ambulance was in route, Bill Knox is alive today. The odds of this happening are about one in 100.

Are Dwight Alvine and Mike Mathews heroes? Yes, although they are quick to point out that every person involved was critical to the life-saving effort. Marilyn Knox, even with serious injuries, was able to climb a steep embankment to wave down a passing motorist. Mount Pleasant Police were quick to arrive with an automated defibrillator. The Paramedics from HCHC performed advanced life-saving measures. And the doctors and nurses at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City are expert at handling heart patients. It was a total team effort.

Mike Mathews is adamant about the importance of the public taking CPR training. You can take classes through the fire department, the health department, the Red Cross, wherever, but CPR saves lives. It is critical that first-on-the-scene responders be able to maintain circulation of the victim until advanced life support arrives. You may be able to save the life of a loved one or, like Dwight Alvine and Mike Mathews, a total stranger.

Marilyn and Bill Knox will celebrate 66 years of marriage in August, thanks to the quick response of a couple of Good Samaritans.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at, or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read on 107.3 FM in Farmington.

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