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Minnesota teen making 'miracle' recovery after electric shock and 30-foot fall

Danny Fleigle, 16, second from right, puts his arm around Abby Trelfa. Trelfa and Madison DeMarais, left, called 911 and administered CPR after he was shocked by an electrical wire and fell 30 feet while climbing a bridge in Sartell. (MPR NEWS)

Doctors are calling the recovery of a 16-year-old Sauk Rapids boy nothing short of a miracle.

Just 12 days ago, Danny Fleigle was unconscious and stopped breathing. Seeking adventure with friends, he'd been climbing the top of a closed street bridge in Sartel when he lost his balance and grabbed a live electrical wire.

The voltage from the line shocked him, and he fell 30 feet onto the bridge deck.

"I never thought it'd happen to me," Danny told reporters Monday from Hennepin County Medical Center. "I kind of thought I was invincible."

When he woke up in a hospital bed, his mom explained what happened. His tale of recovery has stunned even his physicians.

Patients who've experienced even a single incident of electric shock, a 30-foot fall or a seriously traumatic brain injury often don't survive, said Dr. Andrew Kiragu, medical director of HCMC's pediatric intensive care unit.

"To have had all of them and still be here talking with us is a miracle in itself," Kiragu said. "His heart stopped beating. I mean, he died. And then he was brought back to life."

It's not clear how long Danny's brain went without oxygen, but Kiragu thinks it was less than five minutes. After the fall, two friends, Abby Trelfa and Madison DeMarais, called 911. A dispatcher walked the girls through how to perform CPR on Danny until paramedics arrived and took over.

He had suffered a concussion, a broken rib and vertebra, a pierced airway to his lungs, and contusion to his heart — not just from the fall but from the electric shocks he received to restart his heart.

Kiragu said had it not been for the two girls who had the presence of mind to help, Danny might not have survived.

But Trelfa said as she administered two breaths and 60 chest compressions, "nothing" was going through her mind.

"It was all like a blur, like we need to save this kid's life," she recalled.

Kiragu said Danny was unresponsive when he came in with critical injuries. Doctors first cooled him protect his brain and put him in a medically induced coma. They slowly brought his temperature back to normal and gave him medication to prevent seizures. He was taken off the ventilator last Tuesday.

"I got my Danny back," said his mom, Shelly Fleigle. "I was so scared. He's my only boy, my only child, and he means so much to me. I'm so grateful."

Danny is still on the mend. He can't remember simple activities that took place just days ago — from arm-wrestling his grandpa to feeling the fresh air on his face after being wheeled out of the hospital for the first time. He'll continue to receive therapy and could be released within the next week. Doctors still need to remove the staples from his scalp.

What would he advise other young thrill-seekers?

""If you like, it, do it," he said, cracking a smile. "But don't do it crazy. Be careful. Get permission."

His doctor, Kiragu, interjected: "I think what Danny's trying to say is, 'Don't do it! Safety first.'"

Here's hoping Danny follows his doctor's orders.

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