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Thursday, June 6, 2013
“Dan Is Down!” Quick Action Saves The Life Of An Umpire
The following article deals the efforts to save the life of an umpire who collapsed during a Section 6AA game between Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and Minnewaska Area that was played in Wadena on Wednesday, May 22.  It was written by John Millea on May 29 and posted on the Minnesota State High School League website.

As I was talking with softball umpire Daryl Oja on Tuesday morning about the day last week when his officiating partner, Dan Wessel, collapsed on the field, died twice and was brought back to life, Daryl offered this:

“As we speak he’s being prepped for triple bypass today at 11 a.m. Two arteries were 100 percent blocked and one was 90 percent blocked. So he’s very lucky.”

Indeed, Wessel is lucky to be alive. But there was something more than just luck involved here. He also was fortunate that three people familiar with emergency procedures were in attendance at last Wednesday’s Class 2A Section 6 softball tournament game between Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and Minnewaska Area in Wadena.

It was fortunate that Jay Stewart of Glenwood and Gary Bentz of Browerville were at the game; they both are trained first responders.

“Gary drove the team bus for Long Prairie-Grey Eagle,” Oja said. “Dan knew Gary because Dan also is a wrestling official and Gary has sons who wrestled at Browerville. We had talked to Gary before going on the field.”

It was fortunate that Long Prairie police officer Ryan Hanson was there, too. When Wessel, 51, collapsed on the infield after the fourth inning, Stewart, Bentz and Hanson came running.

“Dan was on the bases,” Oja said. “He had been on the shortstop side of second base and he was working his way back to first base. I was marking my card between innings when the first base coach yelled, ‘Dan is down! Dan is down!’ He was face-first on the ground between first and second base.”

Hanson remembers his daughter Angela, the center fielder for Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, making a catch to end the inning. “They came running in, I was talking to my wife, I turned around and saw one of the umps laying face down in the field. I looked again and thought, ‘This ain't right.’ ”

Oja helped turn Wessel over onto his back. “That was my only contribution other than the fact that I kept talking to him,” he said. “Those three guys worked on him.”

They began chest compressions and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Twice, Wessel stopped breathing and began turning blue. But twice, his rescuers brought him back.

“I looked down at him and there was blood coming from his nose,” said Hanson. “I didn’t have a mask like I would if I was on duty, but I knew if I don’t give him air he’s going to definitely die.

“I wiped his face off as much as I could and started giving him breaths. He started breathing and it was like, ‘Sweet. Awesome.’ And then we lost him again. He died at least twice there. At one point, almost immediately his face was purple. I thought, ‘He is not doing so hot.’ ”

Oja said, “I have never seen anyone die before and he died twice, right in front of me. He was not breathing or responding and they were able to bring him back. Those three guys are heroes because they knew what they were doing. They kept him alive until the amubulance got there with the AED and they used it to shock his heart. There was an AED in the school and someone was on the way to get it when the ambulance arrived.”

Dan is in his 29th year as an MSHSL official, having worked wrestling, softball and baseball. He has worked several state wrestling tournaments as an official and an evaluator of officials, and he has served as a charter clinician for the St. Cloud Wrestling Official Association.

Oja and Wessel don’t umpire together very often, but they know each other very well. Oja is a retired teacher and coach in Melrose and Wessel was a student there and played for Oja. “It was kind of surreal from that standpoint, as well,” Oja said.

When Wessel collaposed, Oja had a pretty good inkling of what had happened.

“He had an incident about 10 days earlier when he complained of severe chest pain,” Oja said. “I guess they had kind of ruled out his heart, they thought it was an infection of some kind and they gave him medication. But because of that incident, I knew this probably was heart-related.”

Hanson, who has been a police officer for 15 years and also is an assistant coach on the Wadena-Deer Creek/Long Prairie-Grey Eagle cooperative girls' hockey team, guessed that he had performed life-saving procedures five to 10 times previously. That wasn’t the case for everyone on the scene.

“When I was talking to Jay, he goes, ‘I’ve been in the fire department for four years and this is the first time I’ve had to do CPR.’ I thought, ‘Wow, you’re doing good. You’re one for one.’ ”

The next day, Oja was working a game at Minnewaska in Glenwood when he struck up a conversation with a woman who was aware of what had taken place in Wadena.

“She was the wife of Jay Stewart and I got a chance to talk to her a little bit,” Oja said. “She said Jay came home and he was pretty shook. Like I told all three of those guys, they were heroes. Dan knows this, too, and I know he’s planning on meeting with those guys and letting them know that he appreciated what they did.”
Posted By John Millea (MSHSL)
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