By Jason Kreul
In October, 2016, Camynn, Courtney Bruegmann’s nine month old son passed away after a choking incident at their home. Due to Camynn being an infant, the Heimlich wasn’t an option and CPR was all the rescue squad was able and trained to do. Courtney, as any parent would, wished there was “something else they could have done.” She asked their family doctor if there were any other options anyone else in her situation could have done, and after doing some research, their doctor came upon LifeVac. Created in 2011, LifeVac is a non-invasive suction rescue device that can save a life in an air obstruction emergency. The suction pull it creates will add pressure on the person before releasing it to make a vacuum that finally plugs out the airway and cleans the track faster.Upon doing her own research, Courtney and her family purchased five LifeVacs and initially donated them to the Fennimore Rescue Squad, but was informed, they couldn’t be used due to them not be approved for use by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
But after some legwork by current Fennimore Rescue Squad Chief Brian Heisz, and previous chief Nathan Flynn, in October 2018, they were approved for use in all statewide ambulances. Courtney also has donated LifeVacs to the Fennimore and Lancaster School Districts.
Many of you were aware of that part of Courtney’s plight, from a previous story published in the newspaper, but presently in January 2022 Toni Labbate, founder of the Equal First Aid, reached out to Courtney about her experiences with getting LifeVac more accessible.
Although Equal First Aid was formed to advocate for people who are disabled or in a wheelchair emergency, Labbate wanted to help with getting LifeVacs more accessible with children.
In March 2022, Courtney and Labbate traveled to the state capitol and met with Rep. Travis Tranel and Senator Howard Marklein, to get a bill introduced and hopefully passed to require LifeVacs requited in all Wisconsin public schools. Courtney had gathered a petition with over 50,000 signatures of those approving of the proposed bill, as well as data showing over 400 life saves at the time due to having Lifevac as an option during a choking emergency.
Going forward, everything looks promising but nothing as been officially introduced as of the time of this article. Therefore, Courtney is urging everyone and anyone to call, email, use social media, etc. to contact Rep. Tranel and Sen. Marklein to bring this bill to the forefront. As Courtney stated, in a choking emergency “sometimes seconds” are all anyone has to save a life and having access to equipment like Lifevac can prevent a tragedy that befell Courtney and her family.
A representative from Rep. Tranel’s office was quoted as saying; “This is an issue we have been working on for a while with Courtney. Rep. Tranel has tried several times to move legislation/budget motions regarding anti-choking devices in schools.” As of publication, Sen. Marklein’s office had not responded for a follow up.