Intuition saves life after a fall

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2004

Had it not been for an instantaneous response by a Soldotna police officer, an 81-year-old woman might very well have died a week ago. Instead, she's on her road to recovery at Central Peninsula General Hospital.

For days, Carolyn Zibolsky, 64, of Appleton, Wis., tried phoning her mother.

Doris Oglesby is known for being very independent, despite her advancing years, but her daughter usually makes contact every day or at least every other day.

Oglesby lives by herself in a home built after her husband, Dude, died about 20 years ago. An older house the couple lived in is now a rental on the same property, as is a trailer home, but Oglesby shares the newer home only with a cat and small dog.

After leaving numerous messages on Oglesby's an-swering machine, and not getting a response, Zibolsky began to worry.

Finally after a couple of days, she called Oglesby's sister, Donna Powell, in Missouri.

"What should I do?" she asked.

"I know she has lots of friends in Soldotna, lots of friends in her church, but I don't have any of those phone numbers," Zibolsky told Powell.

Aunt Donna suggested the police.

Zibolsky told herself, "I'm going to keep calling all day today and leave messages. If I don't catch her, that's what I'll do."

By about 8:40 a.m., on Friday, Oct. 1 almost noon in Wisconsin Zibolsky called the Soldotna Police Department, asking police to perform a welfare check on her elderly mother.

"Something's terribly wrong," she thought.

"I was hesitating, because of her independent nature," Zibolsky said last week.

"But I was driven.

"I called and got Officer (Mark) Berestoff. Twenty minutes later, he called and said, 'She's alive!'" Zibolsky said.

Oglesby had fallen in the bathroom six days earlier, on Sept. 26. She broke her hip and could not move.

She lay, helpless, on the floor for nearly a week without food or water, calling for help and praying to God.

"When I pulled up to the house, I saw a pile of newspapers and I went to the front door and knocked," Berestoff said Friday.

"I heard what I thought was her cat. Then, I heard (the sound) again and could tell it was a human voice.

"I yelled back asking, 'Do you need help?'

"I called (Central Emergency Services)."

Berestoff received permission to kick down the door and went in, finding Oglesby on the floor, where she had fallen, as far as one possibly could be from the toilet and sink in the oversized bathroom.

"'Thank God. He answered my prayer. I got found,' she told me," said Berestoff.

"She had tried keeping herself warm by covering herself with a newspaper she had in the bathroom. The tile floor was ice cold," he said.

"Her left arm was pinned under her when she fell, and by the time I got there, she could just barely lift her head," he said.

Zibolsky said her mother had bruises all up and down on the side of her body she was lying on, hardly had any blood circulating in her legs, was severely dehydrated and was hypothermic; but she was alive.

"Mark (Berestoff) did everything right," Zibolsky said. "He stepped up to the plate, and he's really happy he found her alive."

The four-year veteran of the Soldotna Police Department, who was a police officer for seven years in his home state of Wisconsin before moving to Alaska, said he has been on a couple welfare checks in which he found a person de-ceased.

"It's especially hard to tell someone over the phone that a loved one has died," he said.

Berestoff and Zibolsky agree that it's important to check on elderly family members, friends and neighbors on a regular basis.

"If you don't hear from them, call us," Berestoff said. "This could have turned out a lot worse."

Oglesby had emergency surgery on her hip last week and is recovering in the Intensive Care Unit at CPGH.

Zibolsky said she will probably be moving into the Heritage Place nursing home after she is released from the hospital.

"Everyone there really likes her," Zibolsky said.

She explained that Oglesby stayed there for a time after undergoing chemotherapy following a bout with cancer a few years ago.

"After being in there, she returned often, bringing little gifts to the people who were still staying there," Zibolsky said.

Soldotna Police Chief John Lucking Jr. has recommended Berestoff for a commendation from Mayor Dave Carey. A presentation is to be made at the next meeting of the Soldotna City Council.

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