Life changed in a heartbeat--or lack of


(Published October. 5, 2006, 12:24 p.m.)

Benefit for Elkhorn man Oct. 15

By Donna Lenz Wright

The Week

Just two days before Jeff and Shelly Christensen's 20th wedding anniversary, life was plugging away as usual.

That changed after 10:45 p.m. on Aug. 7 as Jeff was arriving home from playing a softball game.

"I was sleeping and he was watching TV in bed," Shelly said. "I woke up to what I thought was Jeff snoring, but he doesn't snore. He was gasping for breath.

"He went into cardiac arrest, and luckily we moved five months before near a very dear friend who is a member of the Elkhorn Fire Department. So when I called 911, he recognized our address and came right away and started CPR," she said.

Jeff was taken by Flight for Life to St. Luke's Hospital where he was in the ICU for eight days, and an inpatient for 21 days. He's now at the Lakeview Rehabilitation Center in Waterford.

To help ease the burden of his recovery, friends and family have organized a fundraiser for Sunday Oct. 14.

It's been a real whirlwind since that day when everything changed in an instant.

"Jeff is a very active guy. He plays softball, umpires, plays golf, he's very active," Shelly says. "He had no symptoms, no history, nothing."

In addition to the damage done to Jeff's heart, he's fighting his way back from the lack of oxygen to his brain during the attack, causing damage similar to a head injury.

"Unfortunately he's not coherent enough to realize what's going on right now. He has days where he is good and days where he's just very sleepy. His speech is coming back. Sometimes words are clear and other times we have no idea what he's trying to say."

Jeff is a sales representative for Advanced Printing in Delavan, and Shelly is finding out just how much his customers think of him through the Caring Bridge Web site provided to patients to update loved ones on patients' conditions.

"I update the site every day and his customers leave the best messages. I read them to him every day."

Meanwhile, Shelly says she's, "doing OK." She works each day as a specialist for Hope Electric in Hartland and visits Jeff each evening.

"I just appreciate all of the support from family and friends. That's what's made it easier," she said, her voice breaking. "I am just totally overwhelmed by this whole (benefit). I never thought we'd be on the receiving end of something like this.

"It's amazing how this can happen in a heartbeat-or lack of."

The benefit will be at the Evergreen Golf Club, N6246 Highway 12, Elkhorn, on Oct. 15, Noon-4 p.m. A $20 donation includes an all-you-can-eat buffet from 1-3 p.m. A silent auction will take pace from noon-3 p.m. and a live auction begins at 3 p.m. Hourly drawings, a cash bar and entertainment by local blues guru Glenn Davis. For tickets or more information, call 642-3766 249-11000 or (262) 903-6974.

Funds for the Jeff Christensen Benevolent Fund have been established at the Associated Bank and Peoples Bank in Elkhorn.





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