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obits: Anthony Fleisner d)12/19/2000 & Nathan Buechel d) 5/9/1996

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Re: obits: Anthony Fleisner d)12/19/2000 & Nathan Buechel d) 5/9/1996

Posted: 3 Jun 2007 1:10AM GMT
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Sheboygan Press, The (WI) - January 26, 2005

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Deceased Name: Anthony "Tony" Fleisner: Mom mourns son and warns: Be careful about snow tunnels

Mary Renner somehow lived through the pain and agony of losing her 8-year-old son four years ago after he became trapped and suffocated in a back-yard snow bank.

"It was pure, utter hell," said Renner, of Cleveland. "It is unimaginable unless you ever go through it. It's like being torn in half."

Renner doesn't want her son's death to be in vain, and that's why she's speaking out about the dangers of digging tunnels in the snow and building snow "forts," which she said can have dire consequences.

Anthony "Tony" Fleisner died Dec. 19, 2000, after he became trapped face-down in a 2 1/2-foot vertical hole in his back yard, then in rural Kiel. The boy died from hypoxemia (lack of oxygen to the brain) and hypothermia (extremely low body temperature).

His mother has a simple message for other parents and children.

"Snow is fun, but it can be also dangerous and deadly," said Renner, 32. "Children don't understand the finality of death."

Her son's death was so devastating that this is the first time she's been able to talk publicly about it, she said.

"This isn't about me. It's about Tony, it's about children," Renner said. "This is preventable. It's unfortunate that I had to learn the hard way."

Medical professionals agree with Renner's message when it comes to children building things like snow forts.

"It's easy for them to become submerged or suffocated," said Gerald Isbell, director of the Orange Cross Ambulance Service in Sheboygan. "The secondary injury is the hypothermia."

Hypothermia can begin in as little as a minute or two and suffocation can cause brain and heart damage within four to six minutes, Isbell said.

Children need constant adult supervision when they are outside playing in the snow, he said.

"Take due regard with your kids when they're playing and know what they're doing at all times," Isbell said. "It's just like swimming, you've got to be right there watching them at all times."

Fleisner was playing outside alone for a half-hour before Renner discovered his legs and boots sticking out of the snow.

"I grabbed him by the legs and pulled and tugged, but it was no go," Renner said. "I was frantic, hysterical."

The weight of collapsed snow on her son made rescue efforts difficult, she said.

"They feel like they're about 300 pounds even though they could be 45 pounds," Renner said. "I needed the downstairs neighbor to help me pull him out."

Fleisner's stepfather, Cornel Renner, and the neighbor, Renee Harkin, performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the boy, she said. Paramedics did get a heartbeat when they took Fleisner to the Calumet Medical Center in Chilton.

"The whole time, I was just screaming at Tony in the back, 'Come on! Come on!'" she said. "'You can do it! Come back to me!' I was just freaking out."

The ThedaStar helicopter ambulance flew the boy to Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah. Fleisner's body temperature had dropped to 82 degrees, and doctors worked on him for 2 1/2 hours, but to no avail.

"If he would have made it, he would have been a vegetable," Mary said.

Children are attracted to large snow banks, said Dr. Barbara Homeier, a pediatrician with the Nemours Center for Children's Health Media in Wilmington, Del., which operates www.kidshealth.org on the Internet.

"When you see snow banks created by snowplows, it's very tempting," Homeier said. "The snow is certainly more condensed and would be heavier, so if you're digging into it, there's a substantial amount of snow above you and it can collapse easier."

The risk of a cave-in to a snow fort is just as great when the snow is soft, said Dr. Jeffrey Britton, a pediatrician at Aurora Sheboygan Clinic.

"The sides could collapse and that could bury the child in," Britton said. "There's risk of suffocation from the weight and there's risk of suffocation from being buried completely. There's even risk of hypothermia on those kinds of things."

Playing in a snow bank near a curb is dangerous because a car or snowplow could strike the snow bank and the child inside it, Homeier said.

The frequency of these types of accidents is relatively low because there's no statistical data on children's deaths caused by collapsed snow structures, said Kevin Fearn, a statistical analyst with the National Safety Council in Itasca, Ill.

Reach Troy Laack at tlaack@sheboygan.gannett.com and 453-5133.

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Sheboygan Press, The (WI)
Date: January 26, 2005
Author: Troy Laack, Sheboygan Press staff
Page: 01A
Record Number: shb57522053
Copyright (c) The Sheboygan Press. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
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SubjectAuthorDate Posted
sandmand77 20 May 2007 2:15AM GMT 
ReliSearcher 3 Jun 2007 7:10AM GMT 
sandmand77 3 Jun 2007 5:15PM GMT 
mrsrenner08 18 Jan 2013 12:37PM GMT 
sandmand77 19 Jan 2013 6:06AM GMT 
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