NORTH FORK – A medical emergency on Road 221 on Saturday morning resulted in a bicyclist being airlifted to St. Agnes hospital, but ended with what has been described by the family as a miracle.
Mike Nolen, 61, of North Fork was riding his bike about a half-mile north of the Bass Fork Minit Market when he lost consciousness.
Passerby Greg Johnson came upon Mike and stopped to render aid. He and another good Samaritan performed CPR until firefighters from the Rancheria Cal Fire Station and Madera County Station 11 arrived just minutes later. Though it was a quick response on the part of the engine crews, Greg says it seemed like forever.
The firefighters on Engine 4255 took over CPR from Greg, and initiated resuscitation with an automated external defibrillator (AED) which is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses cardiac arrhythmias, and treats them through defibrillation, getting the heart back to beating on a regular rhythm. They were able to get Mike’s heart restarted, and then worked with the Sierra Ambulance crew to prep him for transport to St. Agnes.
After being airlifted to the hospital, it was discovered that Mike had a 99 percent blockage to his left anterior descending artery, says the family, and doctors put in a stent. He made a miraculous recovery and was released from the hospital this afternoon with medication and a plan for follow-up treatment.
Mike’s wife Judy says the past few days have taken her and daughter Jill “from utter despair to elation.”
“He literally died and was brought back,” says Judy, “and he recovered in record time. It has really been a miracle.”
The firefighters who responded from Cal Fire’s Rancheria Station, just a couple miles from the scene, were also elated. This type of call often does not end well, and the success of the resuscitation efforts by the four-man crew on Engine 4255 kept spirits up at the station for quite some time. Their efforts, coupled with the quick work of former Marine Greg Johnson, literally gave Mike back his life.
“I’ve been trained in CPR all my life, but never had to use it,” says Greg, a life-long resident of North Fork. “I would have done it for anybody, and am just really glad the outcome worked out the way it did.” Greg also credits another young man, whose name he did not know, with jumping in and helping with the CPR, which he says is both physically and emotionally draining.
“This was a sentimental event that will be remembered for their entire careers,” says Rancheria Station Captain Justin Macomb of the four firefighters on Engine 4255.
A conversation with Mike as he was preparing to leave the hospital showed that he still has his sense of humor firmly in place.
“I’m doing pretty well, considering the alternative,” says Mike. “Just a little rough around the edges.”
So many area residents know Mike from his work with the Forest Service, and his dedication to the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway and the Grizzly Bike Run. The news that he is on the mend and on his way home has been cause for celebration.
He also says he’ll be getting his Zombie costume ready for Halloween.
(Editor’s note: Your chance to honor and celebrate your firefighters will be on Sunday, Nov. 1, at the Fall Festival at the Putney Ranch in North Fork.)