September 2, 2014

AuGres man’s life saved through coordinated effort

By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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AuGRES — Dale McCourt knew something was wrong last Thursday when his neck began to swell up while he was standing in the kitchen of his AuGres home. His situation turned from bad to worse, but thanks to flawless execution by firefighters, doctors, medical personnel and helicopter pilots, McCourt is home and healthy.

McCourt says last Monday, Feb. 16, he had a carotid artery cleaned out and on Feb. 19, the incision began to act up.

“I felt a warm sensation on the side of my neck. … The light clicked on and I knew something was going on,” McCourt said. He says he grabbed paper towels to apply pressure to the swelling incision and jumped into his truck and sped off to the AuGres Family Clinic as the incision broke open. “There was blood squirting on the windshield and on the side window.”

McCourt says for a moment he thought his time was up when he arrived at the clinic and saw its empty parking lot.

“I thought it was closed and I basically had in my head that if there’s nobody here I’ll just get comfortable because this is it,” he said.

Fortunately for McCourt, 70, Dr. Dwight Fisk and other staff members were still on the clock.

Fisk says he walked to the hallway and knew immediate action had to be taken for McCourt’s life to be saved.

“He (Fisk) kind of took over and he had them call here and call there,” McCourt said. “I knew I was in the right hands.”

“He was basically squirting blood,” Fisk said, adding he quickly called the emergency room at Tawas St. Joseph Health System and Saginaw St. Mary's to request flight care. “The whole time I’m talking on the phone I’m applying direct pressure to his neck.

“It was one of those things that had to go perfectly or it wouldn’t have worked.”

But as the helicopter was on its way, more help was needed. The AuGres-Sims-Whitney Fire Department was paged to clear an area for the helicopter to land.

“Ideally we like to land them in the middle of the road but there was no spot because of the overhead lines there,” said AuGres-Sims-Whitney Fire Department Chief Kurt Humerickhouse. “East of the family clinic there’s a vacant field that they landed in.”

Humerickhouse says he, along with eight or nine other volunteer firefighters, directed the helicopter to the ground about 150 feet away from the clinic where a few of the firemen helped transport McCourt to the helicopter.

After being placed in the helicopter, Fisk says McCourt was taken to St. Mary’s of Michigan Standish Hospital (SMMSH) for a very brief stop to replace lost blood.

“They (staff at SMMSH) just ran the blood right out to the helicopter. … When he left our office his blood pressure was at 80,” Fisk said. “You need 80 to feel a pulse in your arm.”

“I guess I lost about a liter of blood,” McCourt said. “It was getting to the point where I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t talk.”

After the new blood was given to McCourt, he says he was then transferred to St. Mary’s of Saginaw, where the operation to close the wound and stop the bleeding was completed by Dr. Christopher Genco.

“They all did a heck of a job,” McCourt said.

Humerickhouse and Fisk, though, said they were basically just doing what they knew they had to.

“Everybody did exactly what we trained for,” Humerickhouse said. “Everything went like clockwork.”

McCourt was allowed to return to AuGres on Sunday, Feb. 22. He is scheduled for a follow-up appointment with Fisk on Feb. 25.

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