Heavy Wet Snow Proves Deadly For One Man

Posted at 6:37 PM, Feb 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-15 15:39:00-04

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich — A Hudsonville man suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest while shoveling snow outside his home on Thursday.

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office says the man is 40 or in his early 40’s;  he was clearing the thick heavy snow from his driveway in the 4900 block of Eisenhower Dr. when he collapsed.  A family member called 911.

Nikki McNut lives across the street; she says around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. she saw several police cruisers and two ambulances.

“I just heard his wife yelling, ‘don’t leave us,’”  McNut remembers. “(Paramedics) worked on him in the ambulance forever and that’s why I thought he probably didn’t make it.”

Sgt. David Vanderploeg says the man – whose name has not been released – was pronounced dead on the scene.

Vanderploeg is one of a handful of deputies who are also paramedics in Ottawa County; they carry the same equipment and medicine as ambulances.  He says every winter some folks push themselves too hard while working outside.

“Shoveling snow is vigorous exercise,” Sgt. Vanderploeg said.  “We did get called many times to locations where people are shoveling snow … that causes them to have chest pains and shortness of breath.”

Paul Brower admits he probably shouldn’t be outside shoveling.

“I’m only 82 years old,” he smiles.

Brower says he walks three to four miles, five times a week and that endurance comes in handy when his snowblower breaks.    He says for every 10 shovels of snow he moves, he takes a break for 20 seconds to catch his breath.

Police and paramedics say he’s got the right idea.

“If you’re experiencing any chest pain any shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness we recommend that you stop the activities,” Sgt. Vanderploeg warns.  “If the discomfort were to continue or to be severe to call 911.”

Tips for Protecting Your Heart

Before You Shovel Snow

  • Talk to your doctor before you take on this task of snow shoveling
  • Avoid shoveling immediately after you wake up as most heart attacks occur early in the morning when blood is more prone to clotting. Wait for at least 30 minutes.
  • Do not eat heavy meal before shoveling; blood gets diverted from the heart to the stomach
  • Warm up your muscles before starting by walking for a few minutes or marching in place
  • Do not drink coffee or smoke for at least one hour before or one hour after shoveling or during breaks. These are stimulants and elevate your blood pressure and heart rate

While Shoveling Snow

  • Shovel several small loads instead of heavy ones
  • Begin slowly and take frequent, 15 minute breaks
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • Dress in layers, to avoid hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Cover your head and neck (50% body heat is lost thru head and neck)
  • Cover your mouth (breathing cold air can trigger breathing problems)
  • Watch for warning signs of a heart attack: lightheadedness, dizziness, being short of breath or if you have tightness or burning in chest, neck, arms or back.
  • If you think you are having a heart attack call 911.