By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer
The Stanly News & Press
Thursday, December 27, 2012 —
Christmas is truly a special day for many.
Christmas means so many things to so many people. It’s about presents and Santa Claus for some. It’s also about the birth of Jesus Christ, spending time with family and friends and the chance to reflect on what the year has brought each person.
For Robert Bowers, this time of year is truly a blessing. He has the gift of life, which he shares today with his wife, Tina, and the rest of his family. That includes his grandson, Blake Fraley.
On Sept. 1, Robert and Blake returned from an unsuccessful dove hunting trip. It was the first day of the season, and the early afternoon was particularly warm. The birds weren’t flying, and Robert wasn’t feeling too good.
So they decided to return to the house. Blake went to start a load of laundry for his grandfather. Robert soon felt dizzy and his vision became blurred. Before he could really react, he quickly fainted.
This situation would naturally set off a sense of panic. And that’s what Blake experienced, at first. But he quickly recovered and calmly called 911 for help, which came in a matter of moments.
It’s a typical story that, unfortunately, happens all the time. But this story has a special twist to it.
Blake is only 11 years old.
‘I didn’t know
what was going on’
Robert had experienced heart problems in the past and had recently recovered from a bout of double pneumonia. He said he really didn’t feel like going hunting that day, but didn’t want to disappoint his grandson.
So the two packed up his truck and were soon on their way to find some birds. Tina had gone shopping while Blake’s parents, Rodney and Miranda, were in Asheboro on a camping trip.
“Blake normally goes, but being the opening day of dove season, he wanted to stay back with paw-paw and go hunting,” Miranda said.
“Normally, I would say ‘No, you’re going with us.’ But I don’t know why I said yes.”
When Robert and Blake returned to the house, Robert knew something was wrong as soon as Blake began asking questions about what settings he wanted on the washing machine.
“I knew I was passing out. My knees started buckling,” Robert said.
“I went down the first time and I didn’t pass out that time. I just fell. I got back up and was trying to get my bearings rolling right and I didn’t know what happened that time.
“(Blake) said I did the same thing again. My head started jerking and I busted my head on the wall.”
“The first time his head didn’t start jerking. The second time, his whole body started moving,” Blake said.
“I didn’t know what was going on.”
Blake quickly began to panic and started crying. But it wasn’t long before he gained his composure and called Tina, his maw-maw. Then he called 911.
“I was crying. I was scared, I was really scared. But that was all,” Blake said.
“I knew when he passed out the first time, I had to call 911. But I wanted to make sure (Tina) could come on down before I called 911. Then I called 911.
“That was the first time I ever had to do it. There were a lot of questions.”
Those questions came from Vickie Morton, who’s taken calls such as this one for 13 years. She got the call from Blake around 1:30.
“We follow a protocol with each call,” Morton said.
“Blake, he was calm. Each question I asked he answered. If he didn’t know ... he asked Robert a few things I think.
“We do have a lot of questions to ask so when we do get the first responders en route, we can tell them what they are going into so they can be prepared when they get there.
“He answered all my questions. There was no difficulty ... he was a perfect caller.”
“I’ll tell you what … when that phone rang and he got to talking on the phone, it wasn’t long until I heard sirens,” Robert said.
Quick To React
David Isenhour has been the fire chief in Richfield since 2000. He was home when the call came about Robert and his situation. He rushed to Robert’s house along with at least two other responders.
When they arrived, David Cody began helping Robert while Isenhour was helping Blake and accessing the situation. In a matter of moments, an ambulance had arrived to take Robert to Stanly Regional Medical Center in Albemarle.
“We start asking the patient questions to get more information as far as what kind of care and treatment we’re gonna provide even before EMS gets there,” Isenhour said.
“I could tell Blake wasn’t shook up, but you could tell he was a little anxious at what was going on. We were able to get him to the side and still keep him where he could keep answering questions and help give answers as needed.
“He was fine. He did an excellent job. We ran some calls with people that’s a lot older than him and they are in a lot worse shape than he was. He did everything, when we got there, perfectly.”
Robert was put into the ambulance and taken to Stanly Regional. For the first time since Blake had arrived to see his grandfather earlier in the day, the two were separated.
“He just grew up in a hurry,” Rodney said.
“He’s a grown man, just about. He did a good job. I’m proud of him.”
From Bad To Better
Miranda said initially they wanted to airlift Robert to Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte. It had begun to rain and conditions were such that the Presbyterian Critical Care Unit was sent instead to drive to Albemarle and take Robert to Presbyterian.
Meanwhile, Miranda and Rodney were frantically driving back to Albemarle to see how her father was doing.
“We were in the dark. We really didn’t know what was going on,” Miranda said.
“At first, we thought everything was going to be OK,” Rodney said.
“Then they called and said it was a blood clot. It went from being worried to being scared.”
Robert was later admitted to a room in the hospital. A doctor came in and told him he believed he had a blood clot in his lung, which was why actions were taken to rush him to Presbyterian.
“I talked with him a little bit and asked him what the prognosis is for something like that,” Robert said.
“He said ‘You could die.’ He flat out told me ‘You could die.’
“I said ‘What do we do?’ and they said they didn’t want to keep me down there in case something moved. They were gonna give me some stuff to dissolve it and that they could work better with me in Charlotte.”
So Robert was rushed to Presbyterian where he underwent some tests and saw his cardiologist. It was later determined he still had pneumonia in his lungs and would have to stay about a week before he was completely healed and ready to go home.
Meanwhile, Blake wasn’t allowed into the Critical Care Unit to see Robert. So he spent a lot of time on the phone with his grandfather.
“I think that was a battle more than anything else, keeping (Blake) home,” Miranda said.
“He was glad when paw-paw came home.”
Boy, was he ever.
“He jumped from the top step of the porch all the way across the sidewalk to the car in one leap,” Robert said with a laugh when asked to describe Blake’s reaction when he first got home.
“Like a bullfrog,” Blake said.
Robert took medication and followed up with his cardiologist. In two weeks, he and Blake were back in the fields hunting. This time for deer.
Blake said he got a lot of responses from people who heard what he did.
“My teacher (Kim Shaver) from (Richfield Elementary School), she started crying,” Blake said.
“She said I was a hero.
“A lot of people at school said something.”
Blake even got an iPod Touch from his paw-paw and maw-maw as a reward for his bravery.
“All the kids in the neighborhood said they were gonna start calling 911,” Robert said with a laugh.
“I told David he better watch out.”
But that wasn’t all Blake received.
Isenhour asked Karen McDaniel, who has been the Stanly County Communications Director for four years, about getting a copy of the 911 call. The two talked about what Blake had done and decided it would be a good idea to give him a certificate of recognition.
“David called me about it and he mentioned it to me and asked me if I would make a tape (of the 911 call) and told me what he was thinking of doing,” McDaniel said.
“It was definitely something I wanted our center to do ... Vickie had taken the call and had the interaction with Blake. Definitely wanted us to be a part of it. I think it was important at that point for us to let him know he did the right thing and followed appropriate guidelines and handled himself so very well.
“We got a certificate and we thought it was something good to do it at a public venue as long as his parents were good with it. We were able to keep it from Blake.”
The plan was to present the certificate to Blake at Richfield’s Party in the Park on Oct. 13. Blake’s parents did their best to keep the secret from him. When they arrived at the park, Blake wanted to go play with some of his friends at the event. But Miranda encouraged otherwise.
“One of the funniest parts was when he came to be there on the stage, Blake was wanting to run off and play with the kids,” Robert said.
“His mama told him, ‘They are fixing to give a quilt away. I want you to sit there and see if they pull my name out.’ In a moment, they called Blake Fraley.
“I was like ‘What? I won that quilt,’ ” Blake said with a surprised look.
Instead, Morton was there with McDaniel and Isenhour to present Blake with the certificate. Several of his friends from the North Stanly youth football league were also in attendance, as were many others who instantly became touched with a swelling of pride and happiness at what Blake had done.
It seemed everyone knew of the surprise … except Blake.
“I guess it went off on Facebook,” Blake said.
“I told my mom ‘I’m getting Facebook so I can see all the secrets.”
It’s no secret what Blake did that touched so many hearts and gave assurance to those who needed it. That rings especially true for people such as Morton and McDaniel, who will typically only hear the phone calls from those who are panicked and in desperate need of help. And, in a lot of cases, they never know the final outcome of those calls.
“I’m just honored that I did get to answer that call because it did go so well,” Morton said.
“When the phone is ringing, you never know what’s on the other end. You never know. You just be prepared when you answer it. He was a great caller.”
“(It was) an opportunity where we could meet Blake, where we could meet Mr. Bowers and put a face with what’s going on that day and give us a chance to be so thankful that you (Robert) are OK and you have a grandson who cares,” McDaniel said.
“For us to be so proud to have the opportunity to meet all you guys. We don’t get those faces. We just get voices. The people who talk to us don’t know us either. It’s a blessing for us.”
Robert is especially grateful to everyone who helped him during his crisis.
“I feel real good,” Robert said.
“I want to thank the Lord for pulling us through this thing.
“I want to thank the first responders for their reaction time. The medic, dispatchers ... they’ve got a soft spot in my heart for what they did.”
Miranda said what happened on that first day in September is one she’ll never forget. And everything that’s happened has inspired Blake to think about his future.
“I think Blake has decided that when he is of age he wants to join the fire department, if they’ll have him,” Miranda said as tears swelled up in her eyes. “That makes me very proud.”
“I think we can work something out,” Isenhour said with a big grin.