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'Dancing with the devil': Retired EMT survives life-threatening infection

Posted: 7:26 PM, Sep 27, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-28 00:26:32Z

Dancing with the devil —that’s how one Wales man described his work as an EMT and volunteer firefighter, but over the summer, he got sick and he found himself on the other side of that work. 

What started as back spasms and a dry cough in August for 58-year-old Tom Laumann quickly turned into something more serious when he could no longer breathe. 

“I couldn’t inspire air and take a breath, and that’s what scared me,” Laumann said.  

Laumann’s wife then dialed 9-1-1 and that’s when he found himself inside an ambulance with a different vantage point —he was no longer a first responder, but instead in need of an emergency response. 

“[It was] surreal. [I always thought] it’ll never happen to me. Almost like an adolescent male who plays sports, [I thought], I’ll never get hurt,” Laumann admitted.  

Laumann’s diagnosis, pneumonia with sepsis —a life-threatening complication of the infection. After working to fight fires for 13 years and an as EMT for 12, Laumann said he never thought an infection would be his biggest battle to fight. 

“We joke with it, dancing with the devil and I got away from the devil I came out of the fire service relatively intact physically, mentally intact. And to be at that point where a disease brings me to the point where I am really sick, I could have been on the wrong side of the outcome and not be alive,” Laumann said.  

Lauman credits his minimally invasive robotic surgery at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital for helping him come out of this alive too, and 29 days post surgery he participated in the 9/11 memorial stair climb in Green Bay climbing 78 flight of stairs with his family by his side. 

Lauman is still recovering but expects to return to work Monday.