Water-Skiing, Emergency Medicine and the Path Back to Health

There is no good time for a medical emergency to strike, but as Brian Kanable, of La Crosse, Wisconsin, found out, there are particularly bad times. It’s at those times people rely on the care of their communities.

In August 2017, Brian was water-skiing on the Black River north of La Crosse. Water-skiing is a passion for Brian and a group of friends. They had been meeting two or three times a week to water-ski early in the mornings, before work.

This day was different. Brian was first up on the calm morning water while two friends were in the boat, one driving and one spotting the skier. Brian was just getting started, cutting wide turns across the wake on his slalom ski, when the expression on his face changed.

Without warning, Brian dropped the rope and plunged into the water. Thankfully, he was wearing a life vest. But, as the boat circled back, his friends watched as Brian pitched forward and his face went under the water. Quick thinking and quick action from his friends were the first steps to saving Brian’s life.

The next was getting Brian medical help. The skiers were able to get Brian back into the boat and call for an ambulance. Fortunately for Brian, expert care was not far away.

First responders revived Brian at the marina — more than once. He needed four rounds of defibrillation before his heart stabilized.

When he arrived at Mayo Clinic Health System — Franciscan Healthcare, emergency medicine staff determined Brian had experienced multisystem organ failure as a result of the heart attack and near-drowning. His experience was far from over. Brian would need weeks of intensive care to restore him to good health.

It was in those weeks that Brian and his wife, Julie, saw firsthand the expertise and compassion of the staff at Mayo Clinic Health System.

“I felt like there was nobody there that didn’t do a good job and wasn’t pleasant,” Brian says. “It felt like they were there because they love their jobs. I don’t know if you get that in every hospital. The care is just awesome.”

Brian’s care required a coordinated, multidisciplinary team. His treatment included two surgeries to install stents in his heart, continuous renal replacement therapy, physical therapy and cognitive speech therapy.

The care team also helped Julie as her husband worked his way back to health.

“No matter where we went, every day they were supportive of Julie and making sure she was taken care of,” Brian says. “My wife would say, too, the bottom line is Mayo really does care.”■

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