‘It was not her time to go’

Minnkota's Troy Karlberg recently performed life-saving CPR on a woman at her granddaughter's wedding reception.


Kaylee Cusack


June 6, 2024

Troy Karlberg, Safety and Physical Security Supervisor at Minnkota’s Milton R. Young Station, has trained thousands of colleagues on how to properly administer CPR/AED assistance to adults, children and infants. With 30 years as an EMT under his belt, along with 25 years with the Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department, he has responded to more medical emergencies than he can count.

But on May 18, Karlberg performed CPR that would save the life of a friend’s mother – at the wedding reception of that friend’s daughter.  

“Her daughter was born when I was working with her at the Sheriff’s Department,” Karlberg said of the mother of the bride. “Law enforcement is like family.”

During the celebratory dinner in Mandan, N.D., that evening, cries came from the family table at the front of the room that someone was choking. It was the 83-year-old grandmother of the bride, who quickly went unconscious.

A member of the host couple was nearby and happened to be an EMT, so he began the Heimlich maneuver, to no avail. Karlberg soon joined his side as they laid the woman on the floor, with Karlberg beginning chest compressions to try to dislodge food from her airway.

“I checked for a pulse, and I didn’t feel a pulse,” he recalled. “Sometimes you second-guess yourself as an EMT – did I really not feel a pulse? But I checked again, and there was no pulse.”

The woman’s airway eventually cleared, but she was still unresponsive. After 10 minutes of CPR, a third EMT on site took over chest compressions as Karlberg continued to check for a pulse. The EMTs were able to obtain a first responder airway bag for better suctioning. They continued to switch compressions about every two minutes. “The only thing in my mind that I could envision was … you can’t die on her wedding day,” Karlberg said.

Mandan Police arrived on scene with an automated external defibrillator (AED) and applied the pads to the grandmother’s chest. No shock was advised – she had regained a pulse. Mandan Fire and the local ambulance were now at the venue with an advanced airway device and a heart monitor.

“I could see the heart monitor, and there was a visible heartbeat and she was starting to breathe,” Karlberg remembered, noting that color was beginning to return to the woman’s face. “I was like, ‘Wow, she’s going to make it. We actually did this.’”

Karlberg’s former co-worker went to the emergency room with her mother who, to the relief of the wedding guests back at the venue, was soon alert and able to sit up. She was even able to ask her daughter if she had missed the wedding dance.

“When my co-worker came back later that night, the first thing she did,” Karlberg said, his voice cracking as his eyes brimmed with tears, “is she walked over and hugged me, and she goes, ‘You saved my mom.’ I told her the stars had aligned. It was not her time to go.”

After a full examination, doctors found no lung, heart or brain damage from the incident. They noted that the work performed by the three EMT guests, and the assistance of those around them, was likely what saved the grandmother’s life.

“Timely, high-quality care, like that provided by Troy and the others, is essential to increasing the victim’s chances of survival and continued quality of life,” said Jason Uhlir, Minnkota Safety Manager. “Cheers to Troy and the others for quickly stepping up to the challenge. This story also reinforces just how important it is for all persons to receive training on first aid and CPR.”

At Minnkota, Karlberg trains 100-175 employees in CPR every year. Lineworkers and the CODE BLUE emergency response team are trained at the Grand Forks headquarters, and the training is available to every employee at the Young Station. It’s an investment that the cooperative makes in its employees, who can use their skills at work, at home or out in their communities.

“You never know when you’ll be needed to save a life,” Karlberg said. “So be ready.”

To find a CPR training near you, visit the American Heart Association website.

MAIN IMAGE: Safety and Physical Security Supervisor Troy Karlberg at Minnkota's Milton R. Young Station. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)


Get Our Monthly Newsletter, Directly Into Your Inbox!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form