“We had total devine intervention,” she said of her husband’s miraculous recovery. “If it hadn’t been for God, Larry wouldn’t be here.”
Larry Ritsema, president of Challenge Machinery in Grand Haven, is a sudden-death survivor — according to Dr. Mark Meengs of Lakeshore Cardiology, who performed surgery on Ritsema at Mercy General Hospital in Muskegon on Memorial Day.
His survival was greatly aided by Dr. Thomas Alguire of Grand Haven.
Alguire’s role in Ritsema’s survival will be recognized by the Grand Haven City Council on Monday night. Brenda and Larry Ritsema will be at the meeting to watch Alguire be honored.
Ritsema was jogging on Memorial Day when he collapsed at the corner of Grant Avenue and Sheldon Road. Alguire rode by on his bicycle and noticed that a man was slumped on the ground. Alguire recognized Ritsema — a former patient of his — and began to administer CPR.
Alguire didn’t have his cell phone on him, so he flagged down a motorist — a Coast Guardsman who called an ambulance. The doctor was able to revive Ritsema.
Ritsema was first taken to North Ottawa Community Hospital, where he was put in an induced coma. Ritsema was then transferred to Mercy.
Alguire said a series of events put him at the scene at the right time.
Alguire’s daughter, Katie, and her family have been living with Alguire and his wife, Mary Kay, while their house is being refurbished. Katie had asked her father to go on a bike ride with her on Memorial Day. Alguire was reluctant at first, since he hadn’t ridden his bike in a while. But he didn’t want to disappoint his daughter, so he agreed to go on the ride.
They had planned on riding very early in the morning, but Katie had developed laryngitis and they didn’t get out the door at the time they had planned, Alguire said.
He also eventually took a different route from his daughter. Then his bicycle's chain came off and Alguire spent several minutes putting it back on.
Then he came upon Ritsema.
“If my chain hadn’t come off, I would have passed him and waved,” Alguire recalled. “I’m still mystified by the strange events that enabled me to help him."
Ritsema didn’t have a pulse and wasn’t breathing. Alguire began administering CPR and Ritsema started to breathe. The ambulance arrived and paramedics were able to stabilize Ritsema.
Alguire said he appreciates the City Council’s efforts to honor him, but he did what anyone else would have done. “I was just there at the right time,” he said.
“Mr. Ritsema, for all practical purposes, was dead,” Meengs said of the early stages of the cardiac arrest.
Meengs had Ritsema taken to the catherization laboratory where they discovered two arteries severely obstructed. Meengs was able to open the arteries through surgery.
Meengs said the quick action of Alguire and others saved Ritsema’s life. He said the fact that Ritsema was found early, given CPR and had shock treatment to his heart enabled Ritsema to survive.
“He was very fortunate,” Meengs recalled.
Meengs explained that Ritsema didn’t suffer a heart attack, but had heart rhythm issues.
“There was no heart damage, and he didn’t have any brain damage,” Meengs said. “It is very unusual that he didn’t have any heart damage.”
Meengs said Ritsema is healing well and that he may give Ritsema the OK to jog again if he passes the stress tests.
Brenda Ritsema said her husband is recovering well.
“We’ve been very blessed. God has been faithful to us,” she said.