PENTWATER, Mich. — On a Friday night in January, the stage was set for a West Michigan "D" League showdown between the Pentwater Falcons and the Baldwin Panthers. The stakes couldn't have been higher for these two small schools. Baldwin was undefeated in conference play, and they were visiting a Pentwater team celebrating homecoming.
But the story people will be telling for years to come at the local watering hole won't have anything to do with the game that night.
As the junior varsity game was about to begin, fans were filing into the school. Third grade teacher Lucy Macher has a son on the JV team and she was selling raffle tickets. That's when the mood in the lobby of the school changed.
"Out of the corner, I heard 'Help me! Help me!' So I ran over there and there was a gentleman. He grabbed my arm and locked and he said, 'I'm dizzy. I'm dizzy.' And he was swaying back and forth," Macher said.
Chris Bush, who was there to watch his stepdaughter cheerleading, helped Macher lower the man to the ground. Macher alerted superintendent Scott Karaptian that the man, a Baldwin fan, was suffering from a medical emergency, and she ran to get help from Pentwater Fire Lieutenant Mark Haynor who was in the stands.
"Mr. Haynor took control of the situation, and at that point in time, I just helped with crowd control and making sure that they had the space they needed to work on the gentleman," Karaptian said.
Pentwater athletic director Ralph Baker also helped with crowd control. The administrators used a canvas typically designed as a background for pictures to create a makeshift privacy shield for first responders.
Haynor performed CPR while Danielle Roberts called 911. Meanwhile, Renae Kieda retrieved one of two automated external defibrillators (AEDs) that the school has in case of emergency. Pentwater firefighter Brad Van Duinen, who was also at the game, arrived to help Haynor.
"At that point, Mark was administering CPR, doing some compressions, so I was standing by to see if I should be ready to fill in. However, the AED was connected and it advised a shock to be administered. And a shock was administered, and his pulse was back after the shock," Van Duinen said.
At that point, Pentwater Police officer Amanda Sniegowski arrived in response to the 911 call. With the assistance of former paramedic Amy Grondsma, and a Baldwin fan with a background in nursing, Sniegowski helped with what's called "post-shock patient care."
"You just want to make sure that they're comfortable, they're still breathing, and that they're able to breathe on their own. If they're not, we're assisting with respiratory care. We checked his vitals - his blood pressure, his oxygen levels," she said.
The rescue team was missing the equipment needed to provide the patient with oxygen, so Van Duinen ran down the street to the Pentwater Fire Department to retrieve those supplies. Shortly after that, the ambulance arrived.
Later in the night, the crowd at the game learned good news about the man who had been taken to a hospital in Muskegon.
"The game announcer came on and said that [the patient] is recovering and is in stable condition. The whole gymnasium erupted in elation and cheer and gratefulness that he was surviving and comfortable," Karaptian said.
In the months that have followed, the Pentwater and Baldwin communities have stayed in touch and have shared news about the man involved.
"I talked to him about a week or two ago. He's still recovering. He sounds pretty good. He thinks he has a long road ahead, but just the fact that he's here, living and breathing with his family is great. He sounds like he's in really good spirits," said Pentwater Fire Chief Jonathan Hughart.
The community is planning a recognition ceremony for everyone involved in the rescue, but they don't have a date picked out yet.
In the meantime, the people of Pentwater are celebrating the teamwork their community showed in a time of crisis. They're also encouraging people to get CPR and AED trained to hopefully save more lives in the future.
"It's very simple. Most ambulance companies might normally have some sort of CPR class. But having that CPR and AED knowledge, it's huge. That night, having that AED at the school and being able to utilize it quickly, it makes a huge difference," Chief Hughart said.
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