Most people treat a traffic backup like a major annoyance. Few stop to actually see if there’s a serious problem causing it. But thats what Aurelio “Rikki” Todd did—and he helped saved a man’s life.
Todd was driving east on Burcham Drive, on a run for his medical marijuana delivery service, Caregiver of Lansing when he found himself backed up by some 15 cars. As he inched forward, prepared to keep going, Todd had a thought: “The man sat there and missed two lights. There’s got to be something wrong.”
Todd is lucky he stopped to check on the unmoving vehicle. Because when he found 45-year-old Kobie Johnson seemingly unconscious behind the wheel, things looked dire. He banged on the window to rouse the man, but Johnson’s eyes flitted and then his head slumped to his shoulder. It did not look like he was breathing.
Todd ran to his car and called 911, telling the dispatcher to hurry because the man was unresponsive. His friend who was riding with him moved Todd’s car and started helping move the traffic out of the way.
As they waited for emergency responders to arrive on the scene, Todd kept talking to Johnson through the rolled-up window.
“I kept beating on the car yelling … ‘Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Just hold on,'” Todd said. “I wanted him to know ‘aint nobody going anywhere. We’re here. They’re coming. Don’t worry. Just hold on.”
East Lansing Officer Andrew Stephenson was the first to arrive, followed by Officer Matt Heffelfinger and Sgt. Erich Vedder.
Stephenson saw that Johnson still had his foot on the brake and the car was in gear. He pulled his squad car perpendicular in front of Johnson’s car to keep it from moving. Then, Vedder used a gadget designed to cut a seatbelt and break out of a car window if you are trapped in a vehicle. Stephenson unlocked the car doors while Vedder and Heffelfinger pulled the unconscious Johnson onto the pavement.
After assessing the scene, Vedder began chest compressions. When paramedics arrived and took over Johnson’s care, they reported a faint pulse.
At Sparrow Hospital, doctors said the situation looked grave. Doctors told family and Johnson’s wife that he had had a cardiac arrest and was in a medical coma.
But to everyone’s relief, Johnson pulled through and came out of the coma. He is currently on medical leave from his job and said he had been treated for diverticulitis, and the infection triggered the cardiac arrest.
While Johnson was hospitalized, doctors implanted a defibrillator to keep his heart regulated. He’s getting therapy for fine motor skills and some memory loss, and he hopes to return to work in January.
Johnson says he’s in an interesting predicament because he is unable to remember the incident.
“I will never be able to thank everyone involved. It’s hard because I have no memory of it,” he said.
“I’m sure I woke up that Thursday thinking it’s another random day, not knowing it could be my last,” Johnson said, reflecting on his ordeal. He says it’s important to “live every day to the fullest, because you never know if you’re promised another one.”