Pierce student just in time to connect stroke victim with medical help
A civic-minded senior clearing brush from a steep hillside in Ft. Steilacoom Park realizes he’s having a stroke but fears he won’t be found until it’s too late. A calculus student with some extra time takes a walk to clear his mind and enjoy the view before heading to class.
On Oct. 25, both discovered that even when things go very wrong, there’s still room for being in the right place at the right time to save the day — and save a life.
Ed Kane hasn’t let his later years slow him down. A U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, he retains the energy and drive that served him so well some 40 years ago in the service. He enjoys staying fit and uses the steep trails around Waughop Lake to get into condition for the hiking season.
But Scotch broom has grown thick in the area, and on Oct. 25 he decided to put in a few hours clearing the bushes and vines that have begun to block his favorite trails. When one particularly stubborn bush refused to budge — then suddenly came loose — it knocked Kane on his back and sent him sliding partway down the steep trail. He was able to get to his knees, but he couldn’t muster the energy to stand. His legs wouldn’t support him.
“Every attempt to rise met with failure, and even my arms were too weak to pull me up. I began to suspect that I may have suffered a stroke,” Kane says. “And when I spoke out loud, I couldn’t understand what I had attempted to say. There was no longer any denying it was a stroke.”
At the same time that Kane struggled in the brushy terrain, Pierce College student Josh Bero, who had arrived on campus early for his calculus class, stood at a favorite spot on a nearby bluff.
“I was on a little walk to clear my mind and stretch my legs before class — the lake is so beautiful from that bluff. But as I turned to go, I thought I heard a very faint cry for help. I looked around and couldn’t see anybody, so I kept walking,” Bero says.
He walked a little farther and heard two more calls for help. This time, he was able to see Kane a ways down the steep incline.
“I immediately started running and came upon a man about halfway down the bluff, wearing colors that kind of camouflaged him,” Bero adds. “I asked him if he was injured. He said no, but he thought he’d had a stroke.”
Bero slung Kane’s arm around his shoulder and hauled him to the top of the bluff. Kane was drifting in and out, but Bero was able to get Kane’s name and his wife’s phone number.
“Things were happening so fast, but I was a little afraid of calling 911 and saying we were ‘somewhere on a hillside around the lake’ — I didn’t know if they could reach us in time. Luckily, his wife knew where he was, and I was able to reach her by phone and ask her to meet us,” Bero says.
At the top of the bluff, Bero and Kane still had about a quarter-mile to go to reach the parking lot, with Kane’s legs providing a little help.
“Just as we got to the lot, his wife pulled up,” Bero says. “She didn’t even put the truck in park or shut it off. I basically threw him into the front seat, and they sped off to the ER.”
Bero found out later that doctors were surprised how fast Kane made it to the hospital, and they credited Bero’s quick thinking — and Mrs. Kane’s driving — with giving Kane his best chance at recovery. Within several hours, Kane was regaining muscle control and sensitivity on his left side, and the slurred speech began to subside.
“After a few days, I was surprised how worried I had became about a stranger in my life,” Bero says. “I still had Mrs. Kane’s number in my phone and called her to ask how Mr. Kane was doing.”
The men met for coffee a few days later, Kane sharing stories about his days as a photographer in Vietnam and Bero telling what his own life was about. Two people who would normally have little reason to cross paths had met under crisis and were now becoming friends.
Bero says he feels fortunate he was in a position to help. And he gained much more than a valid excuse for coming in late to math class.
“More than anything, I’m so thankful that everything worked out alright,” he says. “What could have been something really tragic turned into a beautiful, wonderful circumstance I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.”
For more on this story, see coverage in the Nov. 27 issue of The News Tribune.