Ted Van Lunen’s life is nothing short of a miracle involving a big assist from Linda Dulski, a registered nurse.
On Aug. 18, 2015, Van Lunen, who owns a maintenance and repair business, took off on his motorcycle from his home in Meridian to check on a job site in Glenns Ferry.
Between Mountain Home and Glenns Ferry on Interstate 84, he lost control and crashed in the median, with significant injuries to his head, neck, back, ribs, arms and legs. Passers-by stopped and noticed he wasn’t breathing, but were afraid to touch him because of his injuries.
That morning, Dulski left Salt Lake City a lot later than she had planned and ran into traffic as well, but the delays put her at Van Lunen’s side just minutes after the accident.
Van Lunen, 43, was turning blue and gray, and bystanders told Dulski to not touch him. However, Dulski, a nurse at St. Luke’s Meridian Recovery Room with 23 years of experience and about seven years’ experience as an emergency medical technician, sprang into action. As she cleared his airway and mouth and pulled his jaw forward, Van Lunen started breathing on his own and color came back into his face. Her quick work saved his life.
Dulski knelt in the dirt and stickers and held his mouth and airway open for more than 20 minutes until emergency services arrived. She asked Idaho State Police officers for an oral airway medical device and inserted it to stabilize his breathing. When paramedics arrived, she helped assess his critical injuries and load him on the gurney.
“She’s his angel,” said Lara Madera, Van Lunen’s girlfriend. “He definitely wouldn’t be with our family without her.”
Dulski left the accident without knowing whether Van Lunen survived. But then there was another fortunate turn of events — a coworker was a friend of the Van Lunen family and was able to connect Dulski with the family. She visited at the hospital but wasn’t able to speak with Van Lunen because of his condition at the time.
“It was very powerful, very emotional,” said Dulski of the meeting. “This is someone who has a life, a family.”
Van Lunen doesn’t remember anything about the accident, just asking his girlfriend to throw some wood in the back of the truck before he took off on his motorcycle. But he knows from the stories what Dulski did for him.
“She brought me back to life,” he said.
After several surgeries and months of recuperating, Van Lunen is back on his feet but not quite ready to work. To help the family with medical bills and expenses, relatives and friends recently held a fundraising open house at the White Water Saloon in Meridian. The event was a chance for Dulski and Van Lunen to meet and talk for the first time. The family also used the opportunity to publicly thank Dulski for her heroic effort.
“It was the right place, right time,” she said.
Dulski says Idaho has a large number of healthcare workers, and chances are that one of them is likely to be nearby when an accident happens. Still, she encourages everyone to take basic life support courses and CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“I believe they should have mandatory EMT training in high school,” she said. “Everyone can use it at one point or another in their life.”
A benefit account has been set up for Ted Van Lunen. To learn more, go to https://www.gofundme.com/v65278fg
Sandra Forester works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.