First Responders save Cedar Rapids girl’s life

The August derecho took so much from so many, and for one Cedar Rapids family, the aftermath almost took the life of a little girl.
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 6:46 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Eastern Iowans were quick to help others after the August 10 derecho. That includes the Gansemer family from Cedar Rapids, who helped clear debris at a relative’s house in Marion.

“Hattie, Brooklyn and Riley - they were all being such good helpers, dragging really whatever branches or little sticks they could to the curb,” says their mom, Amanda Gansemer. “All of a sudden, Nick came around the corner and yells, ‘Help - it’s Hattie’. And we went around, and that’s when we saw Hattie was pinned underneath the roots of the tree.”

A large tree stump uprooted in the storm had fallen back into place and on top of Hattie. Two officers with the Marion Police Department were among the first to arrive. With a shovel, a board and the many hands of neighbors, they were finally able to move the tree just enough to pull Hattie out. But the 8-year-old wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse.

“Honestly, I was scared,” says Marion Police Investigator Nikki Hotz. “My instincts just kicked in, and I knew CPR had to be started at that point.”

After multiple rounds of CPR, Hattie started breathing again, but the prognosis wasn’t hopeful.

“They asked us how long she was without oxygen and basically said there could be a brain injury they couldn’t see on the CT scan,” says Hattie’s dad, Nick Gansemer. The pressure in Hattie’s brain continued to worsen and doctors prepared the Gansemers for the worst.

“We did some memory making with Hattie, while she was asleep, where we got some of her fingerprints that we could use for jewelry and we recorded her heartbeat so we could put it into little stuffed bears and have them to hold and hug,” says Amanda Gansemer. “It’s something a mother and father should never have to go through.”

Two days after the accident, doctors removed the device measuring the pressure in Hattie’s brain to take an MRI. Doctors told the Gansemers the results were perfect. When she started to wake up from her medically induced coma, Hattie could move her toes and hold her parents' hands. Nick and Amanda were cautiously hopeful. Family, friends, Hattie’s dance studio and her classmates sent cards and held signs below her hospital window at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. And even though she couldn’t see them, they were there to celebrate her ninth birthday.

“There were so many people that came to wave to her and just give her some love,” says Amanda Gansemer. “There were times at the hospital where I literally fell down on my knees just overjoyed with all the support we’ve been shown.”

After 24 days, Hattie came home. She’s still in a wheelchair as she works toward walking and dancing again. She hasn’t missed a dance season since she was three.

“I can’t dance right now, but I will be able to soon,” says Hattie Gansemer. Investigator Hotz, along with Sergeant Rich Holland, Sergeant Jason Schamberger and Officer Raquel Wilson with the Marion Police Department received the Life Saving Award at the September 17 Marion City Council meeting.

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