Mark Pohl
    Mendota Fire Chief Dennis Rutishauser, left, hugs Mark Pohl on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, during a reunion luncheon with Pohl and the rescue workers and medical personnel who saved him after a massive heart attack. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
    By Kevin Haas
    Rock River Current
    Get our mobile app

    ROCKFORD — Mark Pohl’s condition did not initially look severe when he started to feel ill last summer while marching in a parade in Mendota for the VFW.

    One person suspected that Pohl, a fit 57-year-old Navy veteran, had to cut his march short because of dehydration. He joked with friends who gave him a ride home and even took the trash to the curb when he arrived.

    Then he went inside and suffered a massive and critical heart attack known as a widowmaker.

    Pohl pulled through thanks to a quick response from paramedics, a life-saving piece of heart-pumping technology and the care of dozens of workers with OSF HealthCare.

    Related: A rescue in the city with a heart: Fast response saves Loves Park worker from heart attack

    On Tuesday, Pohl and his wife, Melody, reunited with the team that rescued him: from Mendota firefighter/paramedics who were first on scene to the doctors and nurses who cared for him during his 11-day stay in the hospital.

    He described the reunion with one word, “joy.”

    “It’s very emotional,” Mark Pohl said. “It’s totally amazing to see all these people come together now that I’m upright.”

    OSF and Abiomed, which makes the Impella heart pump that helped save his life, hosted a reunion luncheon at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford.

    “It makes everything worth it,” said Dr. Samer Mowakeaa, an interventional cardiologist who implanted the heart pump. “It makes us push forward every day and aspire to be better and better to better serve our community.”

    Melody Pohl looks at her husband, Mark, on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, after thanking OSF workers and paramedics for saving his life after a heart attack. At left is Dr. Samer Mowakeaa, who implanted a life-saving heart pump called Impella to help rescue Pohl. A reunion was held Tuesday at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    Melody Pohl had rushed home in August after learning her husband left the parade sick. She heard him gasping for air when she arrived.

    “He looked right through me,” she said. Then he threw up and fell unconscious.

    More news: New $13.5M development to bring grocery store and mid-century modern lofts to downtown Rockford

    She called 911, and firefighter/paramedic Brady Rutishauser arrived first and quickly identified cardiac arrest. Mendota Fire Chief Dennis Rutishauser, Brady’s father, and fellow firefighter/paramedic Nate Tolley arrived shortly after.

    “It was a big festival weekend and they were at the house within two minutes,” Melody Pohl said.

    Pohl was rushed to OSF Saint Paul Medical Center in Mendota and then transferred to the hospital in Rockford.

    The Pohls said they want to make sure the firefighters and medical workers get the credit they deserve for saving his life.

    They had previously paid a surprise visit to the Mendota firefighters shortly after he was discharged from the hospital. Brady Rutishauser said it was a heartwarming moment to see Pohl arrive healthy at the station.

    “It’s a reminder of why you do what you do,” Brady Rutishauser said. “It made a day better.”

    Elizabeth Archer, RN, talks Tuesday, April 25, 2023, about caring for Mark Pohl at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford after he suffered a heart attack in August 2022. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    Pohl suffered a 100% blockage in his left anterior descending artery. It’s the type of blockage that often builds up slowly for years, and then in the course of just hours or minutes it turns into a critical situation that fully blocks a key artery.

    “It’s the type of heart attack that needs immediate attention and emergency care,” Dr. Mowakeaa said. “It’s a very big win because a lot of people either don’t make it to the hospital — that we never see — or those who do just really have a rough course and they don’t make it through to be discharged from the hospital.”

    More news: Late Rockford Speedway owner Jody Deery’s final bequest creates ‘9th and 10th sibling’ 

    A stent was initially placed, but Pohl needed additional CPR. After he was stabilized, Mowakeaa implanted the Impella CP. The device, which has been used to treat patients since 2008, pumps blood and oxygen throughout the body to allow the heart to rest.

    Additional testing showed that Pohl was also in right heart failure, and Mowakeaa implanted an Impella RP to provide biventrical support.

    “His heart was at a complete standstill. There was no pulsations,” Mowakeaa said. “Together the two heart pumps were able to give him maximum support.”

    The Impella CP heart pump is a minimally invasive, temporary heart pump that unloads the left ventricle and uses real-time intelligence associated with improved survival and heart recovery. (Image provided by Abiomed Inc.)

    Pohl’s heart function improved about two days later and the devices were removed.

    “It takes a whole team of people to deliver this care,” Mowakeaa said. “There’s really too many people to list.”

    Pohl has now returned to his job managing a family-owned office supply company. He also exercises several times a week and enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren.

    For rescue workers like Brady Rutishauser, he’s also living proof of the importance of the work they do.

    “It’s mind-blowing to me in a way,” Rutishauser said “It’s awesome to see, probably once in a lifetime type of thing, as well.”

    Mark Pohl thanks medical workers and the rescue team that helped save him from a heart attack in August 2022. A reunion was held Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas 

    missing or outdated ad config for local savings

    missing or outdated ad config
    missing or outdated ad config for local stories

    Tags: , , , ,