When Brian Huber of Waukee, IA, collapsed during the 20-kilometer EMC Dam to DSM race in Des Moines on August 28, he was fortunate that one of his fellow runners was Tom Benzoni, D.O.’83, EM, AOBEM, FACEP, an emergency medicine physician and assistant professor in DMU’s doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) program.
On Oct. 12, the City of Des Moines honored Dr. Benzoni; two nurses, Stephanie Auxier and Jeanette Wiese; and other first responders for saving Huber’s life. The ceremony took place at the Des Moines Fire Administration Building.
“There’s nothing that my wife or family, that I, can say to thank you enough for everything you did. I know it’s years of training,” Huber said at the event, as reported by WOI-TV and KCCI-TV. “I know it’s dedication to what you do and I know that there’s tough days as a first responder, but that day you guys made a difference and I will be forever grateful.”
Dr. Benzoni saw Huber fall to the ground shortly after they’d passed the halfway point of the race. He immediately responded with chest compressions, quickly assisted by the two nurses and other first responders on site. Before their assistance, Huber hadn’t breathed on his own for nearly four minutes. Dr. Benzoni credits the other first responders who assisted, including two police officers, for keeping the man alive.
“I could see Brian’s physiological response to their CPR just making his blood move. I could see his neurological responses…I told those officers you all just keep doing exactly what you’re doing,” Dr. Benzoni said in the KCCI-TV report.
As a longtime emergency medicine physician, he says that responding to Huber’s emergency came as an “automatic reflex.” He notes that the city’s honor was just the second “official” recognition he’s received in nearly 40 years of practice in the specialty, which comes with the territory.
“Most of the time, patients who are treated in the emergency room won’t remember you, which is a good thing, and they won’t thank you,” he says. “If you practice emergency medicine, you’d better just get used to that.”
Getting thanked is not what’s important to Dr. Benzoni, however. In the video the City of Des Moines produced about the recognition ceremony, he explains: “Knowing that Brian is alive and back with his family and can get on with his life, that makes the whole life of mine worth it, because that’s why we do what we do.”