Man thanks medical doctors for saving his life last winter after - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Man thanks medical doctors for saving his life last winter after accident

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A South Dakota man visiting his daughter in eastern Iowa is thanking the Jones Regional Medical Center staff for helping save his life.

Tom Szalat says it was one of the coldest and snowiest night's last winter in January, when he was traveling on Madison Road, just off Route 38 in Jones County.

His car rolled, slid into a creek where the car overturned and trapping him for more than two hours in the freezing cold.

“A total miracle, I am so glad to be alive,” said Szalat. “I'm searching for what God's got for me. He's got something for me to do.”

While Szalat is searching, he thanked doctors and the medial staff, Monday morning at Jones Regional Medical Center.

“My body went very relaxed, I had no more fear of dying,” said Szalat. “They had to pull me up vertically up out of the ravine because they couldn't pull me up any other way.”

Doctors can't really explain how within hours of treatment for hypothermia, Szalat was up and moving.

“His odds of being here today were not very good when he was stuck upside down in that creek,” said Nathan Harmon, the emergency room doctor who helped treat Szalat.

Szalat says he was just about a mile from his daughters house, in Jones County when he remembers getting out to clear some of the snow from his car.

However, hours passed and his daughter Roberta knew something wasn't right. So she and her husband braved the wintry conditions to look for her father – and spotted the wheels of his car up in the air off Madison Road.

911 Dispatcher: “What's your emergency?” Roberta: “My dad is in a ditch! He's probably unaware he was in a car accident. He and his car are in the creek,” according to the 911 call.

A nearby neighbor had use a farm tractor to pull Szalat and his car from the frigid waters. He was rushed to Jones Regional Medical where doctors did everything they could to warm his body temperature, quickly.

He came in with hypothermia and doctors feared the worse.

Szalat's core body temperature was well below 80 degrees.

Harmon says they had to stabilize Szalat with sedation and ventilation, IV fluids and many other warming measures.

Harmon has ever treated a patient with a core body temperature that low.

“...comes in on death's door that we can save and just thinking about everything that had to happen, everything had to happen perfectly that night for him to survive,” said Harmon.  

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