Given little chance of surviving hunting accident, Dilworth man meets helicopter crew that saved him

Mitch Amundson was not expected to live after a hunting partner mistakenly shot him during a coyote tournament hunt near Jamestown. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, He met those, he says, saved his life.

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Mitch Amundson hugs the Sanford AirMed crew that helped save his life after Amundson was accidentally shot while hunting near Jamestown on Nov. 25. He coded on board the helicopter and in the operating room, with severe blood loss and no heartbeat. Amundson met the flight paramedic, flight nurse and pilot on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
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FARGO — There was nervous energy in the hangar bay of Sanford's Air Med in Fargo Wednesday, Jan. 25. It's not often flight paramedics, nurses or the pilot get to welcome a patient they saved two months ago.

Mitch Amundson walked quietly down the hallway of the Sanford Health Emergency Department on his way to the top floor hangar. He says he's been looking forward to this reunion since the day he learned how hard the AirMed team worked to save his life Nov. 25.

The Dilworth man was accidentally shot by his friend while the pair were hunting out near Jamestown in late November.

There was a roar of laughter and disbelief as Mitch Amundson walked in the hangar. They all hugged, shook hands, and the crew told him how great he looked despite the accident being just two months ago.

Fight nurse Caleb Behm and pilot Dan Dudek described that harrowing flight.


"We said, 'Yes, he still does have a pulse, we just need a machine to hear it,'" Miller said as he and Behm retold the incredible story of survival that day.

Sanford AirMed was sent to Jamestown, where surgeons were trying to save Mitch Amundson, but he needed to get to Fargo.

"Obviously, it was really bad," Miller, said.

In Jamestown, Mitch Amundson was in critical condition after the gunshot. Most of his injuries were in his abdomen. His heart rate was plummeting, and his breathing was shallow.

"This is bad," Miller said, recalling those moments in Jamestown.

With surgery in Jamestown to slow the bleeding, the crew knew they only had minutes, so they had to get to Fargo fast. 

"Fire up the helicopter," Miller said he told the pilot. 

"There's not one thing that went wrong. Everything flowed perfectly (and) fell in line just like it should," Miller said. 


It was an emotional reunion. While Mitch Amundson remembers nothing from the flight, the crew remembers every moment; including Mitch coding as they prepared to land in Fargo.

"He was very sick the whole ride. We didn't know if he was going to make it or not," Behm said.

"His heart rate went from 70 to 20, within a second," Miller said.

But everything fell into place that day, including the weather, as the flight had a tailwind out of the west.

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"It was a game changer. I would actually say a lifesaver," Dudeck said.

It's hard to tell who was more grateful on Wednesday.

"It's a career maker," Behm said. "Makes it worth what we do."

Mitch Amundson, his mom, or the flight crew. Nobody could predict the connection made on Wednesday.


"It's amazing, all smiles and tears. It's awesome," Miller said.

"It's amazing that both sides needed this as bad as we did," said Mitch Amundson's mother Deanna Amundson.

"It is huge, to come back and see the emotion in their eyes and the happiness and sheer joy," Mitch Amundson said.

The crew that made sure to never give up on him.

"I knew I was going to get a little emotional, but it's awesome. It's gratifying to know that (with) our training and what we do, we can make a difference," Dudeck said.

Mitch Amundson is not only back working, he is hunting again. On Christmas weekend — just days after his hospital release — he bagged another deer, with his bow.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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