By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer
With Thanksgiving just days away, Don Croy has a lot to be thankful for – most of all that he’s still here to celebrate it.
The 63-year-old business owner, father, and grandfather from Ottawa, Ohio, says going to a local safety council meeting in late February literally saved his life.
“I wouldn’t be talking with you today if I hadn’t gone to the meeting that day,” Croy said in a recent interview with BWC. “Without a doubt, it saved my life.”
On Feb. 27, Croy attended the monthly meeting hosted by the Safety Council of Putnam County. The guest speaker – local firefighter/paramedic Crystal Plumpe – gave a presentation about heart attacks in the workplace. After the meeting, Croy went about his workday as president of his landscaping business, Croy’s Mowing Ltd.
Timing is everything
Later that day, Croy, who serves as a trustee for Ottawa Township, was at home before the trustees’ meeting that night and felt like he had a case of heartburn, which was unusual for him.
With Plumpe’s presentation still fresh in his mind, he told his wife, Teresa, the symptoms weren’t going away and he might need to see a doctor. She took him to an emergency room a mile from their home.
While there, he suffered a full-blown heart attack, was placed in an ambulance and rushed to Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima.
“In the ambulance I was fighting for every breath. I was trying to keep my eyes open,” he recalled. “I closed my eyes briefly and when I opened them, one of the medics was standing over me with shock paddles.”
Upon arrival at the hospital, he was taken immediately to surgery and received a heart stent. After a few days of recovery, he returned to the office and began easing himself back into running his business.
“When you go to a seminar, you’ll always learn at least one thing,” said Croy. “That morning I learned if you think you’re having a heart attack, don’t wait to get help. Eleven hours later, that knowledge is what kept me from dying. Who would have known?”
Plumpe said she’s just glad Croy took what he had just learned and realized not to downplay his symptoms.
“He told me that before my class, he would have told himself to ‘man up’ and ignore his signs and symptoms,” she recalled. “Based on what he told me happened that evening after my class, he probably wouldn’t be alive today if he would have ignored what his body was telling him.”
Amy Sealts, director of economic development for Putnam County and the safety council’s coordinator, vividly remembers the conversation she had with Croy after his heart attack and recovery.
“He was emotional when I talked to him the day after the heart attack,” Sealts recalled. “I remember him saying, ‘That lady saved my life.’ I still get goosebumps when I think about it.”
Thankful to still be here
A week and a half after his ordeal, Croy made an emotional visit to the Bath Township Fire Department, where Plumpe works as a platoon chief, to thank her for saving his life.
“In the fire and EMS profession, we rarely get to meet those that we impact in a positive way, after the fact,” said Plumpe. “The few times that we do, we treasure. To see Don face to face and hear him say that I saved his life was pretty amazing.”
Months later, Croy still thinks about his brush with death and how fortunate he is to be alive.
“It really hits me when I see my sons and my grandkids,” he explained. “I’ve always appreciated my life, but I appreciate it more now. I’ve always looked at the roses, but now I take the time to smell them, too.”