Location: South Bend, Indiana
Date: July 20, 1989
On July 20, 1989, in South Bend, Indiana, Faith United Methodist Church secretary Mary Ferrel was talking on the phone in the church office. Sixty-four-year-old Bible studies teacher Robert Carl walked over to her clutching his chest. She got off the phone and asked him what was wrong. He said he was having pains in his chest and was having a heart attack, She knew that his son, Dale, was a paramedic, so she immediately called him from the hospital.
Dale was attending a class at the hospital when Mary called. He got off the phone and told his friend, EMT Randy Garnett, that his father was having a heart attack and they ran to the ambulance and drove off. "I was worried Dale wouldn't be able to handle the call if it was bad," recalls Randy as they sped to the church, "because the worst possible scenario is responding to someone you know."
When Dale saw his father, Robert looked ashen, was short of breath, sweating profusely, and was in so much pain he couldn't speak. Dale gave him nitroglycerin to ease the pain, but it had no effect. He was in a dilemma. He might need to perform CPR, but his father had told him earlier not to restart his heart if it ever stopped. "But you just don't want to lose your best friend," says Dale.
As Randy raced to the hospital, he slowed the ambulance as he approached an intersection. It appeared safe so he proceeded, but just then a car sped through the intersection and crashed into the ambulance, causing it to roll over three times and land on its side.
The ambulance was in shambles. Heavy equipment had been thrown all over. Worse, the force of the crash had thrown Robert's gurney upright and slammed him into the cabinets on the wall. He was suspended in air from the gurney's safety straps and his IV line had broken loose from the catheter still in his arm. His head was cut and bleeding.
Dale called out to Randy, who was pinned between the door and the seat. Randy waved his arm in the air to signal that he was okay. He grabbed the radio and informed the hospital of the accident.
Dale's brother, Terry Maguire, and his wife were awaiting Robert's arrival at the hospital when they heard news of the crash. "I thought, I've lost my father and my brother in the same wreck," recalls Terry.
Dale's left arm felt as though it were broken, but he crawled to his father and tried to stabilize him. He found the lost IV, cleaned it, and plugged it back in the catheter. He lowered Robert and put his oxygen mask back on. As his father's condition deteriorated, all Dale could do was to comfort him and wait for help to arrive.
Rescue units from the South Bend Fire Department arrived on the scene within four minutes. Rescuers extricated Randy from the wreck, while paramedics loaded Robert into another ambulance and prepared to leave without Dale, who was to be transported and in still another ambulance. But he insisted on accompanying his father. "I started care and I'm finishing care," he told paramedics. "This is my dad and I'm going with him."
At the hospital, Randy and Dale were treated for their injuries. Robert was admitted to South Bend Memorial Hospital in critical condition. Tests revealed blockages in four major arteries, and the following morning, Robert underwent a quadruple bypass. Dale spoke to him as he was being prepped for surgery. "You better make it," Dale told him, "because I'm not ready to be the man of the family."
Robert assured him he would. His surgery was successful, and he was released from the hospital one week later. Today, Robert is doing very well. He appreciates every minute of the day because he knows he's living on borrowed time.
"I thank God that we can joke about it now," says Dale, "and say that we're just two old country boys that took a whooping." Dale's wife thinks that motorists should learn a lesson from the accident. "The most important thing people need to remember is, if you hear a siren, pull over."