If Joshua Higgins didn’t see Charlie Fisher collapse at the end of a bike ride on May 18, Fisher has “no doubt” he’d be dead.
“It was truly about timing and luck for me,” said Fisher, 56, who was saved from a cardiac arrest.
The day was a typical Saturday for the Lake Michigan Drive resident. He ran errands, did some yard work and took a bike ride. He was a couple of hundred yards from home and said, “Evidently, I must have felt something because I stopped and straddled the bike.”
In the next moments, Higgins ran out to start chest compressions on Fisher at the corner of Lake Michigan Drive and Levy Drive, near Higgins’ house. Passer-by Greg Uhler stopped his own bike ride to aid Higgins until Fairfield police officers arrived with mobile defibrillation equipment called AED.
The next thing Fisher remembers is waking up in the hospital. Three days later, doctors implanted a defibrillator in his heart.
If he would have made it home, Fisher said he likely would have died. His wife, Susan, was in Columbus that weekend with friends.
“What you did is amazing,” said Mayor Steve Miller at the Aug. 12 City Council meeting recognizing Higgins and Uhler. “You guys stepped up, you did the right thing, and again, Charlie’s here because of your actions.”
Miller proclaimed Aug. 13, 2019, as Josh Higgins Day in Fairfield, and Aug. 14, 2019, as Greg Uhler Day. Both men say they played a small part in saving Fisher’s life.
“I was 100 percent beyond blessed to be a part of that. I was just one person of 50 to 60 people that touched his life,” Higgins said.
‘I heard a bang’
Higgins was having a “family pool day” with a small plastic pool in the front yard on May 18 with his son, Landon, who’ll be 2 in November, and wife, Brittany. As Higgins was cleaning up the front yard, and on his literal last trip inside the house he heard something.
“As I was stepping into the house, I heard a bang,” said Higgins. “I turned around and looked and (Fisher) was on the ground.”
He waited a moment to see if Fisher would get up. He didn’t, and Higgins yelled for his wife to call 911.
He hoped dehydration or exhaustion caused him to fall over, but when he got closer, he knew it was more serious.
Fisher was entangled with his bicycle. Higgins freed him, checked for vitals — there weren’t any — and began chest compressions, a skill he learned four years ago as a soccer coach.
“You pray you never use it but having that knowledge I think was definitely an impact,” Higgins said.
Uhler, a neighbor who lived about a mile away, was on a bike ride, arrived a few minutes later and stopped to help.
“It was so quick but it felt so long,” Higgins said. “I couldn’t tell you what anybody else looked like. I didn’t really know what Greg looked like until we met at the council meeting because my No. 1 concern was Charlie’s well-being.”
‘Is this for real?’
Uhler, a neighbor who lived about a mile away, was on a bike ride and arrived a few minutes later. He spotted “someone down and someone kneeling over them.”
“I could see him giving CPR, and I remember thinking, ‘Man, is this for real?’” he said.
Uhler jumped in to relieve Higgins. The two then relieved each other a few times until Fairfield police officers Zack Shust and Bri Smith arrived on scene. Shust then used an AED, which is in all police vehicles, to get Fisher’s heart restarted.
Fisher was transported to Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital by ambulance and then flown by helicopter to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Uhler, whose father Sterling was a former Fairfield City Council member and mayor, said the experience was “a kind of blur.”
When police, and then medics, took over for Higgins and Uhler, Uhler said he stood by for a little while before riding home. He didn’t know Fisher at the time, and thought he’d never find out what happened him.
As it turns out, Fisher is active at Sacred Heart and just started to be an usher for the church. Uhler organizes the ushers for masses and received an email from Fisher’s wife, Susan, apologizing for not attending church on May 19 “because Charlie had an incident on his bike.”
Uhler, who ushers at a different mass time, hadn’t met him yet.
AEDs helped save lives
Medical experts say the earlier that chest compressions can be administered, the better the chance a cardiac patient can survive a heart attack. Fairfield police officers keep AEDs in their cruisers for incidents like Fisher’s, said Chief Steve Maynard.
“Our fire department has extremely fast response times, and they usually beat us to the scene of a medical emergency, but in cases like this when we do beat them there, having the appropriate tools to administer life-saving treatment is certainly important,” the chief said.