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Local Editorials

Tom Hatch’s heart attack

Fifty-five year old Tom Hatch of Grinnell doesn’t remember the heart attack.  All he knows is what his family and friends have told him.

Oct. 25, he had gone to the high school football game between Grinnell and South Tama.  He was sitting in the bleachers with a group of friends he usually sits with, while his wife, Paula, worked the concession stand. 

A friend was sitting in front of Tom.  She felt Tom’s knees in her back, and thought he was pulling one of his pranks.  She turned around to look, and thought Tom was having a seizure. 

It was no seizure.

Tom’s heart had stopped. What ensued might best be described as organized pandemonium. Fortunately, Tom’s doctor was sitting two rows away, and a Grinnell policeman who was in the group, Chris Wray, started CPR. 

The standby ambulance from the football game was summoned.  Wray’s wife, a registered nurse, took equipment from the ambulance and started an I.V. All-in-all, Wray performed CPR for about 30 minutes. 

His training had taught him that if the victim does not regain a pulse in 10 to 15 minutes, the procedure should be stopped.  But Wray would not give up. When the ambulance arrived from the emergency room, Wray looked like he’d just finished a marathon. In retrospect, Tom couldn’t have had better care in a hospital.

Tom’s daughter, also at the game and noticing commotion in her dad’s section, tried to call him on his cell phone. After several tries, she called her mother at the concession stand. 

Paula decided to go check on her husband.  She was told Tom had been taken to the emergency room.

Tom was defibrillated and airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, where he was put into hypothermic coma to lower his body temperature. Early the following week, two stints were placed in his arteries. 

Later in the week, a double-bypass procedure was performed during open-heart surgery. Tom was still oblivious to all.

Nov. 9, 14 days after his heart attack, Tom regained a little consciousness. His mouth dry, and tubes sticking out of every orifice, he wrote on a chalk board, “Diet Pepsi.” His wife knew he was going to be OK.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Prior to the heart attack, Tom ran a taxi service in Grinnell, but will probably give that up.  He is exploring his options, one of which might be playing the acoustic guitar solo, which he did a little of in college. His future is wide open, thanks to a fast-reacting group of trained people.

There’s an award on a local television station called “Nominate Your Hero.”  Tom and Paula Hatch have thought long and hard on it.  But how do you nominate a whole football section?

• • • 

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at (319) 217-0526, email him, or visit his website at

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