From time to time, we see success stories that, rightfully so, provide kudos to the responders who pull a victim from the clutches of death, whether a structure fire, extrication incident or active-shooter event. But it’s not too often that we read stories of how we helped ourselves, not in a selfish way, but rather through actions that ultimately help save our own lives in the long run.
A CRITICAL GRANT APPLICATION
Enter my friend and former co-worker Mike Crouse. Mike and I worked together as neighboring emergency managers in West Virginia, him in Hampshire County and me in Mineral County. Mike and I joke that we are “brothers from another mother” – we look alike, we’re in the same business, like the same things, think the same way, have the same faith; it feels like we are living the same life. We were both firefighters and hold passions for helping our communities succeed and thrive.
In 2015, Mike was president of the Slanesville Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad (SLVD&RS), a small, rural, all-volunteer department in the hills of West Virginia. The department provides fire and ambulance transport service, and like many volunteer departments, it depends on a combination of county funding, grants and local fundraising efforts to survive.
When Mike was president, he signed hundreds of documents in the execution of his duties. Mike could never have imagined how ONE signature on Aug. 11, 2015, would change his life three years later, to the day. That signature was on a grant application for a LUCAS chest-compression system.
This is a story of faith, circumstance, professionalism and friendship that puts many things into perspective – a story full of what I will call miracles. Some may say just it’s everyday business, or a combination of marvels, and that’s OK. I prefer to think of them as miracles.
CARDIAC ARREST AND TREATMENT
On Aug. 11 (my son’s birthday), 2018, Mike was working on a roof when he fell ill. Mike came inside to cool off, sitting on the living room floor as his wife, Becky, massaged his aching shoulders. That’s the last thing Mike remembers. He collapsed and went into cardiac arrest in front of his wife. Becky called 911 immediately (miracle #1 – immediate call).
The SLVFD&RS was alerted, and some members were at the firehouse (miracle #2 – immediate response). The singular paid county medic was 5 miles away (miracle # 3 – this is a 645-square-mile county).
Within 8 minutes, the volunteers from Slanesville and the Hampshire County medic – who all knew Mike – were on the scene administering care. That’s 8 minutes without blood pumping oxygen through his system. They applied the LUCAS chest-compression device that Mike signed the application for 3 years earlier and began advanced life support care.
After loading Mike in the ambulance, performing a series of shocks, administering medications, and continuing LUCAS treatment, Mike regained a pulse. By the time he arrived at Hampshire Memorial Hospital, a short 16 miles away, Mike was talking, yet far from being in the clear (miracle #4 – awake!).
Mike was transferred to the cath lab at Winchester VA Medical Center, where he coded again just prior to the cath procedure. Doctors and nurses delivered a series of shocks and medications, once again restoring Mikes pulse (miracle #5 – revived again). Turns out that Mike had 100% occlusion of his “widow-maker” artery.
Mike’s son, Chris, made the first public notice of a problem in an understandably cryptic Facebook post. Chris ultimately kept us all updated as Mike and his family went through a series of quick ups and downs – and those who know Mike were riders on the roller coaster with them.
“CHAIN OF SURVIVAL” SAVES ONE OF OUR OWN
Incredibly, I had the privilege to visit with Mike, Becky and Chris at Mike’s home in Slanesville on Sept. 15, a short 35 days after his brush with death (miracle #6 – he’s OK). It was quite literally as though he hadn’t skipped a beat! Being able to visit with my friend again is truly a miracle.
We should share survival stories as often as we can, especially when it affects one of our own. Mike’s story had an amazing set of successes – yes, miracles – that contributed to a living end. Thank you to everyone involved in this amazing chain of survival.