Nurse recognized for saving life of Roscoe resident

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Lonnie Nelson and Jessica Grann

Jessica Grann received a recognition award at a special March 22 ceremony at Harlem-Roscoe Fire Station One, for her quick action when Lonnie Nelson's heart stopped on December 23. Grann, a registered nurse at Swedish American Hospital, saved Nelson's life by providing CPR until firefighters arrived to continue his treatment and transport him to the hospital. Nelson's family and friends, along with the firefighters who responded, were also on hand for the event. Chief Don Shoevlin honored Jessica Grann saying, "Recognition is warranted to individuals who go out of their way to help others at extreme times of need. In this case, Jessica stepping up was life saving." Shoevlin also gave well deserved accolades to the HRFD.

On December 23, 2021, Lonnie Nelson had worked all day bartending at The Whiffletree Bar & Grill11347 Main St, Roscoe. After work he decided to join in the Christmas cheer with the customers. He was in the middle of a conversation with a friend when his face went blank and he fell face first onto the floor.

His friend Bill Anderson tried to get a response from Nelson but he wasn't moving. He started to roll him over to start chest compressions. Jessica Grann was in the Whiffletree with friends and came running over to help. Grann checked Nelson's pulse and he had no heartbeat. She started CPR immediately and was able to get a pulse but still no response from Nelson.



The paramedics at Harlem Roscoe Fire Department had been called and were on their way. Once they arrived, Nelson coded again and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were unable to get a pulse for another ten minutes. Grann joined the HRFD team helping to start an IV and put pads on Nelson.

Luckily, after breaking five ribs and his sternum, they started detecting a faint pulse but Nelson was still unresponsive.

Nelson's sister Tabby Nelson-Miller was called to go down to The Whiffletree and was waiting outside the ambulance for news on what to do next. “I was terrified that I’d have to give my elderly parents some terrible news and then Marty Green came out and said “Tabby, we have a pulse but we need to get him to Javon Bea now.”

As Nelson was transported, Nelson-Miller drove down the street to give their parents the news and to drive them to the hospital.

“We arrived at the hospital and the ER doctor came out and said “I am so sorry to give you this kind of news at Christmas, but we do not expect him to make it."

Nelson had extensive injuries to his face and eye from falling, plus he was still unresponsive. Normally there is brain damage when someone goes without oxygen for over 10 minutes. The doctor said he would keep the family informed and that everyone in the ER was working on him. An hour and a half later, the doctor came busting through the door telling them that Nelson was “a miracle! He is alive and responding by squeezing our fingers."

He was placed on a ventilator and moved to the intensive care unit the next day.

After 13 days of being on life support, Nelson (in his very confused and medicated mind) decided to rip his ventilator right out of his lungs and mouth. As it turned out, this was the start of his recovery. They had been trying to get him off the vent every day but he just couldn’t breathe on his own. “I guess the difference was he just wasn’t ready,” Nelson-Miller said.

Nelson was then moved to a different floor and was in the hospital a total of 33 days. The doctors still have no idea why his heart stopped.

Susan Gaffey, who owns The Wheel in South Beloit, is a good friend of Nelson-Miller. After hearing about Nelson's experience, she wanted to do something nice for him. Doris Deschler from The Whiffletree also had a jug out for donations, giving all of the customers a chance to help.

On February 26, a fundraiser organized by Gaffey was held at the South Beloit Businessman's Hall. In a strong showing of support, over 500 people attended this special event. Everyone loved Mary Cornell’s famous chicken and dumplings dinner.

Filling a full night of fun for a great cause was music, dancing, silent auction items, ticket draws for items, plus a huge 50/50 raffle. The winner of the 50/50 raffle left their name off of the ticket; instead they wrote in Lonnie Nelson's name.

“The love in that room was refreshing after the dark times our family endured,” Nelson- Miller reflects.

“We presented Jessica Grann with a large bouquet of flowers as a thank you from our family plus we gave a donation to the paramedics to go to The Whiffletree. We wish we could do more for them all! We were so excited when we received the call that the fire department wanted to honor Jessica.”

The Nelson family are forever grateful to all who donated prizes for the benefit and to everyone who came out, helping in any way - especially Gaffey, her staff and Mary Cornell for making the fundraiser a reality.

Lonnie Nelson's family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers while he was in the hospital. “I thought it was necessary to update people every day on Facebook because the posts were getting 300-500 likes and comments,” Nelson-Miller said.

“I felt obliged to give honest details of how he was doing.”

The family is especially grateful to Grann and the HRFD for their life saving efforts.

“The support we received as a family is something none of us will ever forget; this is what a small town is all about,” Nelson-Miller said.  

Nelson is a 1990 graduate of Hononegah High School and a lifelong Roscoe resident.

“I am very glad that Lonnie is 100 percent OK and that he had this kind of outcome that is so rare,” Grann said.

Photo: Harlem-Roscoe Division Chief Tom Aaker
Jessica Grann is presented with a certificate and words of appreciation by Harlem- Roscoe Fire Chief Don Shoevlin. Photo: Marianne Mueller
Photo: Harlem-Roscoe Division Chief Tom Aaker
The Nelson family and members of their extended family expressed huge amounts of gratitude to Grann and everyone who has supported Lonnie and their family. Photo: Marianne Mueller
Lonnie Nelson, (left) expressed gratitude to Jessica Grann, the registered nurse who jumped into action by taking life saving measures. Grann was given a well deserved special recognition by Fire Chief Don Shoevlin on March 22. Photo: Marianne Mueller
Harlem Roscoe Fire Department, Station 1 were honored and recognized for working alongside Jessica Grann. They all teamed up to save the life of Lonnie Nelson on Dec. 23. Photo: Marianne Mueller
Lonnie Nelson on Jan. 4, 2022, day 12 at Javon Bea Hospital
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