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Rapid response: Infant regains heartbeat after Bemidji officer, paramedics respond to call

A 3-month-old Bemidji boy is in critical condition after a team of first responders helped revive him Memorial Day morning.

In the middle of his shift Monday, Officer Karson Otness, a nearly 17-year veteran of the Bemidji Police Department, was at the Law Enforcement Center when the call came in at 9:13 a.m.

Otness drove three blocks and arrived two minutes later to the home on Minnesota Avenue Northwest, where a mother had reported her child wasn't breathing.

"You don't get those calls very often," Otness said Tuesday. "It's one of the worst calls you get."

The officer arrived on scene and began providing CPR. A team of Bemidji firefighters - Mike Mischke, Mitch Howe, Peter Humeniuk and Jake Premo - showed up a minute or two later, providing aide to the child and carrying him outside to an arriving ambulance.

"We are very proud of our role in the EMS system," Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer said. "This is an example of it."

Paramedics from Bemidji Ambulance Services were then able to restart the boy's heart.

"Just to hear that was a weight off the chest," said Otness, who remained at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center with the boy's mother until the father arrived. While at the hospital, a doctor spoke with the mother about the child, who was transported to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, N.D.

"You don't often get so personally involved," Otness said. "It's just luck we were so fast."

The family declined an interview request Tuesday, according to Darren Huber, a Sanford spokesperson.

The case is under investigation but Police Chief Mike Mastin commended emergency personnel for their efforts.

"The rapid, professional and thorough response provided collectively by the area emergency services helped sustain the infant's life," Mastin said in the release. "All emergency responders should be applauded for their commitment to public safety and dedication to the Bemidji community."

The release said Otness arrived at the home and was directed to a bedroom, where the officer found an infant lying on a bed.

Otness checked for a pulse and breathing, and when he found neither, immediately began resuscitation efforts. Bemidji firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene and took over efforts to arrive the boy.

"Without the response and the training each of them have ... I don't think the outcome would have been what it was," said Mastin, adding the child still faces health challenges from the emergency.

Calls like the one Monday aren't common, Mastin said, and reinforces the training officers and other emergency responders undergo.

"That paid dividends in this case," Mastin said. "It's our job to help in times of need. An infant not breathing is always a call that gets to everyone," and officers are often the first on the scene.

Hoefer also emphasized training for firefighters, who take monthly refresher courses and bi-annual recertification tests.

"We're constant trying to stay constant to provide the level of care we need to provide," Hoefer said.

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

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