I was really looking forward to the fourth of July weekend. My family and I were planning on heading up north to spend time with my parents and celebrate the 4th of July with them. Our plans somewhat changed though when Friday morning I got word that my dad had a heart attack while out walking his dog in the woods...
I'll try to be brief on what happened, but I think the story is pretty amazing, so I want to share.
First I'd like to thank everyone who played a role in getting my dad safely to FMC and stable in ICU. That list includes everyone from Blue Ridge Fire Dept, Coconino County Sheriff's Dept, Coconino County 911 dispatch, Coconino County Search and Rescue, US Forest Service, Guardian Air, AZ G&F, and the medical team at FMC.
Just a quick note about my dad. He is a volunteer firefighter with Blue Ridge Fire Department up in Blue Ridge / Happy Jack area and a certified EMT. He's also a volunteer with Coconino Search and Rescue. He's used to playing the role of first responder and not being responded too...
My dad takes his dog Logger out for a walk just about every morning. He uses that time to look for dead or downed trees for firewood or looking for animals. He was out with Logger Friday (July 1) morning and from piecing things together, he started not feeling well, took a spill, and so he dialed 911. He then started a dialog with dispatch. He was disoriented and was not able to give his exact location, so dispatch notified Coconino County Search and Rescue. The head of Search and Rescue went upstairs to dispatch and was getting some details from them since they had a possible medical emergency but didn't know the location of the emergency. My dad didn't know his cell phone number, the color of his vehicle, or where he was at. It was then that the head of Search and Rescue saw the name on the screen and realized he knew who they were looking for.
Blue Ridge Fire Department had been dispatched, as well as several other law enforcement agencies in the area. They had the searchers turn on sirens to see if my dad could hear the sirens and at some point it became apparent that my dad had his gps with him and after Logger licked the blood out of my dad's eyes, he was able to see well enough to give dispatch his coordinates. They then knew where he was and sent units to his location.
This was probably about the time that mine and my dad's friend Mark started calling me. Things were very hectic and busy at work and I was in the middle of a series of meetings dealing with containing some issues before the holiday weekend. I was presenting some information and didn’t want to excuse myself to answer Mark’s call(s). I assumed he was wondering what our plans were for the 4th of July since we watched fireworks with him and his family last year in Winslow… I then had a couple of back to back calls from my dad that I didn’t answer either. I started to wonder what was going on, but figured, ok, my dad and Mark are talking and my dad figured he’d call me also… Well, a few minutes later I get another call from a 928 number I didn’t recognize and by this time alarm bells were going off in my head. I took that call and I barely remember the conversation I had with Doug, but he alerted me that Mark had posted on a couple of local hunting forums that there was an emergency and I needed to call him asap.
I called my dad’s cell and reached the Coconino County Deputy Sheriff who had possession of my dad’s cell by that time and he briefed me on what was going on. (It was his day off by the way, but he heard the call so he joined in the search…) I told my boss and the others in the room I had to leave for a family emergency and headed home to pack up the family and head up north…
Forest Service was first on the scene and found my dad’s jeep. Logger came out of the woods barking at the Forest Service truck. The Forest Service officer didn't know who they were looking for so when he saw Logger he figured my dad had beat him out there, yet he didn't see his truck. My dad had purchased a jeep the week before and it was the vehicle that was being looked for in the search. Not everyone up in the area knew my dad owned a jeep yet. However, Logger led the Forest Service officer and the arriving medics from Blue Ridge Fire Dept right to my dad. I think it took about 30-40 minutes for them to find my dad after the 911 call went out.
As soon as they knew somewhat what they were dealing with they put a Guardian Air helicopter in the air from Winslow. After an approximate 10 minute flight they were at Blue Ridge Fire Dept. My dad was taken by ambulance from where he was found approximately 200 yards from his jeep, back to the fire station where he was loaded in the helicopter and taken to Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC). In later days after my dad's heart attack, they told us that when he arrived at the fire station his pulse was in the mid-30's and he didn't have any blood pressure.
Once at FMC, he was immediately being attended to. I learned that he was shocked once when he arrived at FMC. I think he may have also been on an ‘auto pulse’ while on the helicopter.
The doctor from FMC soon called me and the first words out of his mouth were, “Your dad is alive.” I felt instant relief, but had fears of the battle yet to come. The doctor told me my dad suffered a heart attack and he needed a stent put in an artery in his heart. I gave my approval and he said he’d call me when he was done. He called later (I forget how long it took, approximately and hour or 1.5 hours), and told me he was successful and explained what he did during the procedure.
In the meantime we were packed up and on the road up to my parents. We went by my parent’s house and I dropped my wife and kids off with my mom to stay with her while I went to Flagstaff to be with my dad.
When I got to Flagstaff he was in CVISU, and I went in and got the scoop and visited him. He looked like heck, but according to a nurse who was in the ER when he was brought in, he looked great. He’d smashed his face when he passed out (before he called, as my dad said he remembered not being able to see anything due to blood in his eyes). He had a cut on his forehead and his chin, tore his lower lip away from his gum, a bloody nose and black eye. The things he was saying hurt the most was his mouth and ribs (which he also hurt when he fell).
Saturday night my son and I took my dad’s gps out and followed the tracks from the gps trying to find his glasses. They hadn’t shown up with his personal effects and no one knew where they were, so I figured they were out in the woods somewhere. We followed the gps ‘breadcrumb trail’ and eventually zeroed in on a couple of waypoints that were on top of each other and didn’t make a whole lot of sense and had the correct time stamp for them to be waypoints he made Friday morning. It had rained earlier in the day (Finally!) so all tracks were washed away. We studied the ground pretty good and actually found his glasses. We both felt it was pretty similar to geo-caching. One lens was popped out and the nose piece was bent, but I was happy we found them. It really hit home though knowing my dad had been laying out there waiting for help a little over 24 hours earlier…
Below are cell phone as they lay pictures of my dad's glasses. It looked like someone took them off and folded them, but then they got stepped on and buried in the sticks and leaves.
My dad stayed in FMC until Monday, July 4th, when he was released from the hospital. He was still very sore and very tired, but he was very happy to be home. His dog Logger and my mom were also very happy to see him home.
My wife, kids, and I stayed up north and I was able to work from my parent's house for the rest of the week while my wife took care of the house and cooked all the meals for us. Every day my dad got stronger and was able to do more and more.
I can't express how thankful I am to the dedicated EMS team up there and the staff at FMC that literally saved my dad's life. Also I'm very thankful to Logger for his role in my dad being found quickly.
I'm now even more excited at the prospect of my dad's upcoming elk hunt and possible deer hunt this fall. I'm looking forward to spending time with him and hopefully getting some more pictures like the ones below of us with his elk...