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Spencer homecoming king thanks his 'Crew' after cardiac arrest

SPENCER, Iowa | Austin Crew, the Spencer High School homecoming king who collapsed and suffered cardiac arrest after a football game on Oct. 13, returned to school this week.

On Tuesday, the senior started the school day by making an announcement to the student body over the intercom.

"I wanted to thank everyone for their incredible support," Crew said. "People I don't even know have reached out to us since this happened and it's meant so much."

Crew, 17, serves as senior class president, National Honor Society president, a six-time speech all-stater, two-time choir all-stater and a leading competitor in doubles tennis for the Tigers. He's also the school's most avid Iowa State Cyclone fan.

"I have this tradition of wearing Cyclone stuff to school on Monday after a big win by the Cyclones," he said.

His sartorial Cyclone swag showed throughout Northwest Iowa last week as hundreds of students, Hawkeye and Cornhusker fans among them, donned ISU's cardinal and gold colors to show their support for Crew as he recovered in hospitals in Sioux Falls and Iowa City.

Following his collapse, his friends and bystanders quickly determined he wasn't breathing. They called 911 as trained onlookers assessed his condition and began CPR immediately. Members of the Storm Lake Police Department joined paramedics and an ambulance crew within three to four minutes.

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Austin Crew, of Spencer, Iowa, signs in to begin the school day at Spencer High School on Tuesday. Crew returned to school this week after suffering cardiac arrest following a high school football game in Storm Lake, Iowa, on Oct. 13. Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal

Dale Kroll, a nurse anesthetist from Spencer, joined an OB nurse from Storm Lake and Jason Holt, a Spencer High School teacher, in conducting chest compressions until medical personnel arrived.

"Trey Sievers, one of Austin's buddies, called us at home," said Andrea Crew, referring to herself and husband Pete Crew, who were home in Spencer. "He told me that Austin had collapsed."

Another buddy, Sam Aalberts, a lifeguard, noticed Austin wasn't breathing and called 911.

"Jason Holt took the phone and talked me through everything paramedics were doing," said Andrea, who works as a physician's assistant in nearby Hartley, Iowa.

While she and Pete drove toward Storm Lake, Austin was taken to the Buena Vista County Regional Medical Center before being air-lifted to Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls. He remained there throughout the weekend before being flown with his mother to Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City.

"I thought we were going to lose him on that Saturday in Sioux Falls," Andrea said. "And then, at that time, there was a prayer vigil being held (at Faith Lutheran Church in Spencer) and we could feel this overwhelming sense as this flood of prayer comes."

Tim Gallagher Sioux City Journal 

Austin Crew, a senior at Spencer High School in Spencer, Iowa, shows an autographed football he received last week from Matt Campbell, head coach of Crew's favorite team, the Iowa State Cyclones. Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal

Andrea Crew said she was at times frustrated, angry, fearful and hopeful as their son struggled to breathe on his own, battling a collapsed lung among complications. At one point on Sunday evening, she leaned close to her son and instructed him to use the deeper, slower breathing exercises he learned in high school choir.

Though he doesn't remember his mother's advice, Austin took it and it helped him stabilize.

A significant turnaround occurred in Iowa City, where doctors determined Austin had left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy, a condition where, as Austin developed in utero, his heart didn't compact into muscle properly.

In laymen's terms, Austin's muscle mass at the bottom of his heart remained spongy, or porous.

And while he's had this condition since birth, he never showed symptoms.

"Even through his EKG, this would not have been caught," Andrea said.

Rather, it showed itself in cardiac arrest, a rarity for an active, healthy high school student.

Doctors inserted an implantable cardioverter defibrillator through his upper left chest region. The device, which has a computer with a capacitor and battery, has a lead placed in the left ventricle and monitors Austin's heart rhythm constantly.

Austin stands by a "smart box" each evening as his daily heart data is transmitted to cardiologists in Iowa City. If his heart rate slows below 40, the device paces his heart. If it goes above 200, Austin will receive a shock to empty the electrical impulses from his heart, allowing the organ to restart.

"The shock may take him down or knock him to his knees," his mother said. "But that's OK, it's also saving his life."

As Austin recovered in Iowa City, his family donned Hawkeye gear, perhaps for the first time. Pete and Andrea, Iowa State graduates, joined their son, a future Iowa State Cyclone, in thanking medical pros at the University of Iowa for their lifesaving work.

In the meantime, dozens of Cyclones reached out to Austin and his family through social media. Monte Morris, the all-time assists leader at Iowa State, sent a message to his special fan, as did star wide receiver Allen Lazard. Coaches Matt Campbell and Steve Prohm sent autographed gifts, encouraging their young ISU supporter to get back on his feet.

Austin and his family returned home to Spencer over the weekend. On Sunday, Austin headed to Faith Lutheran Church in Spencer and stood up to deliver his thanks to the congregation for their prayerful support.

"We give the glory to God as He ultimately saved his life," Andrea said.

On Monday afternoon, Austin, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, attended three classes and a rehearsal for the high school's musical production of "Fiddler on the Roof," which takes place next weekend. Austin, who plays Perchik, made it through his solo on Monday.

His mother laughed and admitted, "I sat in the parking lot the whole time. I wasn't quite ready to let him go yet."

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Austin Crew, a senior at Spencer High School in Spencer, Iowa, shows an autographed football he received last week from Matt Campbell, head coach of Crew's favorite team, the Iowa State Cyclones. Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal

Spencer High School peers and members of the community have raised more than $7,000 for the family already, much of it through sales of "#Crewstrong" shirts in Iowa State colors. Nine members of Austin's fantasy football league are also offering their labor to bidders in hopes of raising more money for the Crews.

Austin, who has been taken aback by all the attention, said he now wants to focus on the high school and Spencer community at large. He wants the student body to be there for everyone, mirroring the way it has rallied for him.

"In a pretty yucky fall, this became bigger than something for him or us," Andrea Crew concluded. "People saw this goodness and wanted in on the train. That's driven all of us."

As he continues to recover, Austin Crew said he'll focus on his music, his academics and his fellow Tigers and Cyclones. He'll also register soon for an upcoming CPR class as he didn't take one offered when he was a freshman.

"I'd like to take CPR and get a lot of my friends and others to take it," he said.

Andrea noted that October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. An estimated 395,000 people outside a hospital's care succumb to sudden cardiac arrest each year in the U.S. A significant number of those people could have been saved if a bystander knew the lifesaving procedure.

Austin Crew, his mother said, was lucky. Soon, he'll take the training in hopes that one day he, if called upon, can return the favor.

Facebook likes Dixon County site for its new wind farm

WAKEFIELD, Neb. | Facebook gave a thumbs up to the development a long-dormant wind farm project in rural Dixon County, Nebraska. 

The social media giant announced on its own platform late last week it partnered with developer Trade Winds Energy of Lenexa, Kansas, to build the Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project in rural Northeast Nebraska.

Facebook plans to use energy from the wind farm to power its upcoming data center in Papillion, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha, the state's largest city.

When completed, the wind farm would be the second-largest in Nebraska and generate enough energy to power 90,000 homes.

The 320-megawatt Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project is set to be built southwest of Sioux City across a 32,000-acre area in Dixon County between the towns of Allen, Emerson and Wakefield, according to Trade Winds.

Ty Rushing / Photo Simulation Courtesy of Facebook 

A photo simulation Facebook used when it announced that it was revitalizing the long-dormant Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project, a new 320-megawatt wind farm that will be built in rural Dixon County, Neb.

According to Trade Winds, each turbine will take a minimal amount of acreage — 1 percent to 2 percent — out of service, including land for roads, turbine, foundations and maintenance buildings.

Trade Winds original Rattlesnake Creek was comprised of a 200-megawatt wind farm spread over 20,000 acres.

More than 100 local landowners were involved in that version of the project and they were looking at potential payments of $10,000 to $15,000 for hosting a turbine on their property.

Neither Facebook nor Trade Winds provided the number of landowners involved with the new Rattlesnake Creek.

Also, no cost was given but the new Rattlesnake Creek could likely exceed the $400 million price tag of its 200-megawatt predecessor.

Of the 320-megawatts of power Rattlesnake Creek will create, 200 of them will be allocated to Facebook’s data center while the remaining 120 megawatts are available for other buyers.

Facebook's data center would receive its power via a transmission line owned by the Nebraska Public Power District that runs east/west through the southern part of the project site.

Trade Winds original Rattlesnake Creek project fell apart in late 2013 after it failed to find buyers for the energy the wind farm would have produced. Nebraska law at the time required wind farms to sell 10 percent to in-state utilities and sell the rest out-of-state.

This updated version of the project came about due to a partnership Facebook and Trade Winds formed with the Omaha Public Power District to create a tariff that provides companies access to renewable energy sources.

A timeline wasn't provided as to when construction on the wind farm will begin, but a spokesperson for Trade Winds said it is projected to be online by the fourth quarter of 2018.

Sioux City hosts Iowa Tourism Conference

SIOUX CITY | Approximately 300 Iowa tourism representatives will visit Sioux City over the next three days for the annual Iowa Tourism Conference. 

Sioux City will hold the statewide event Wednesday through Friday at the Sioux City Convention Center, its first time as a host city since 2008. 

The event will include professional development sessions and networking opportunities for industry representatives, as well as nationally known speakers talking about current trends. Speakers will include Kevin Brown, author of "The Hero Effect: Being Your Best When It Matters Most" and Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. 

Sioux City Events Facilities executive director Erika Newton said the event will also allow the city to showcase what it has to offer. 

"It's always great to highlight some of the attractions Sioux City has," Newton said. "We'll have a lot of information about events and attractions at the conference."

Newton said event attendees will participate in a "dine-around" event Wednesday featuring restaurants in the downtown Pearl Street and Historic Fourth Street districts. A Friday tour for employees of welcome centers will also travel to a handful of the city's attractions. 

Newton said Sioux City will be the final western Iowa city to host the event, which will moved to a centralized location beginning in 2019. 

"In the past it has rotated between west, central and east regions," Newton said. "We're excited that we're getting to host the last in western Iowa."

Primary hotels for the event are the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, 300 Third St., and the Hilton Garden Inn, 1132 Larsen Park Road.

Looking ahead, Newton said this is the type of conference the city hopes to attract more of with the planned renovations to the convention center and construction of a Courtyard by Marriott hotel adjoining the venue.

Kinseth Hospitality Inc. plans to construct a $20.2 million Courtyard by Marriott hotel at the current site of the Sioux City Convention Center parking lot over the next few years. The project will also include renovations to the convention center to include a ballroom and "pre-function" space connecting it to the hotel, as well as a two-story, 140-space parking structure behind the hotel for guests and the public.

The $5 million in city projects will be funded through the Iowa Economic Development Authority's Reinvestment District program. 

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Heelan's Allison Bermel reacts after a first set win against Carroll during volleyball action at Bishop Heelan High School Tuesday. The Crusaders advanced to the regional final with a three-set win.