Woman saves fiance, stepfather with CPR

Posted at 7:03 AM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 07:03:55-04

 Courtney Campbell knew it was serious when she looked at her fiance, Dave Bentlage.

He was rubbing his chest. And his jaw. He just had a different look to him the morning of Feb. 22.

"I'm hurting," he said. "I'm just hurting everywhere."

Campbell, 40, suggested they go to the hospital. Bentlage, 51, balked and said it wasn't necessary. He was just tired, he said, before heading upstairs to use the bathroom.

Campbell pulled out her phone and started frantically Googling the signs of a heart attack. She didn't really need the confirmation. She knew what a heart attack looked like. She had seen one 25 years before, when her stepfather went into cardiac arrest.

She bolted upstairs a moment later, hearing a crash. Bentlage had collapsed, pulling the toilet's water tank down with him. Water spilled over the bathroom floor in their east Jackson home as he laid unconscious, turning gray.

Campbell started chest compressions. Bentlage awoke, briefly, dazed. He complained again that he was tired. As she tried to turn off the water valve he passed out again. She started compressions once more, yelling for her 14-year-old daughter to call 911.

Bentlage was revived again, this time having enough energy and wherewithal to attempt to stand. He said he wanted to sit on the couch downstairs. She protested but steadied him down the staircase.

The ambulance arrived soon after, and Bentlage was taken to St. John's Medical Center, where he was stabilized and sent along to Idaho Falls. He had two stents placed in his right coronary artery.

A week and a half later he was up and moving, laughing and joking, saying the doctors told him his heart is as healthy as an 18-year-old's.

Campbell scoffs and says he acts like an 18-year-old. Which is something she's really, really thankful for. She didn't come out of the shock until about 48 hours later, she said.

"I was freaked out, panicked," she said.

Campbell admits she has since gone into full caretaker mode, checking up on Bentlage several times a day. The first five days after the procedure she enlisted their children to intercede if he attempted to lift anything too heavy. Their 4-year-old daughter knew to ask to be picked up only with his left arm. Bentlage's 13-year-old son cut in if he thought his dad was trying to lift something heavier than five pounds.

A few nights ago he made a strange noise in the middle of the night, and Campbell checked his breathing and felt his pulse.

"I'm very mother hen with him," she said. "You kind of develop this feeling like you need to watch over them and take care of them."

Part of the "them" includes her stepfather, Wally Ulrich, who is part of her flock. Campbell revived Ulrich more than 25 years ago after he collapsed while she was getting ready for school.

Campbell, who first learned CPR as a child from Ulrich, bounded into action once she heard her sister scream. Ulrich had fallen from his chair in the kitchen, apparently lifeless.

"I don't know how, but I lifted him and put him back in the chair," Campbell said.

Like Bentlage, Ulrich had to be revived several times. He was eventually transported to St. John's as well, where he was stabilized and life-flighted to Salt Lake City. He has since had two pacemakers — one was recalled, he said — to correct a poorly functioning node.

"All of us need to know what you'll do when you come across this trauma," said Ulrich, who worked for years as a ski patroller. "I've seen a lot of people just fall apart."

He lauded Campbell's ability to remain cool under pressure.

"She's really something," Ulrich said. "Calm. Smart. Skilled. And tough."

Campbell said she is still trying to sort through what happened and how she feels. But she is certain of one thing.

"I'm just happy he's still here," she said, turning to her fiance.

"Good work, Courtney," Ulrich said. "Again."