By Traci Chapman
When Mustang Mason Bob McGregor heard about the plight of a teenage boy who had a heart attack during church camp, he knew he had to do something for a family struggling with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. So, he did what Masons do best, he said.
“We decided to have a spaghetti dinner fundraiser,” McGregor said. “I guess you could say Masons specialize in helping people, and this is really a situation of someone in need.”
That fundraiser is set for Sunday, July 16, just in time for a family that has gone through something unimaginable, Union City Police Chief Richard Stephens said Sunday.
“In law enforcement and certainly at Union City we are a family and a team,” the chief said. “Two of my biggest mottos have always been ‘One Team, One Fight’ and ‘Family First Every Time.’”
Stephens said those mottos sprang to mind when Officer James Hall called him on June 19 with frightening news – one of his 15-year-old twin sons, Jake, had suffered a heart attack while attending an Oklahoma City church camp.
“For me, that family first approach also includes my officer’s families – I am responsible for their husbands, fathers or sons,” Stephens said. “Their family is my family too.”
Jake would become a miracle to everyone who knew and those who treated him, but in those early hours, it was touch and go. After he was in full cardiac arrest, bystanders who performed CPR and emergency personnel were able to revive the Union City youth – after 19 minutes.
“In my personal experience of over 30 years as a paramedic in the metro and 20 as a law enforcement officer in every capacity except federal, I don’t remember many instances where anyone received 19 minutes of bystander CPR to survive without significant deficits,” Stephens said.
Jake was taken to OU Children’s Hospital and placed in hypothermia cooling wraps to reduce brain swelling and maintain proper organ function, the chief said.
“They lowered his temp down to 33.6 degrees – the plan was to keep him that way for 24 hours, then warm him up slowly and check neurological function,” he said.
As Jake improved, doctors diagnosed the problem – a cardiac arrhythmia called Wolfe Parkinson White Syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic website, WPW causes the patient’s heart to beat more than 300 beats per minute, which doesn’t give the heart enough time to refill with blood before it pumps again – which will eventually cause heart failure.
The good news was Jake’s WPW was treatable by a surgical procedure he underwent on June 30. Jake was able to go home July 1, the chief said.
That was far from the end of the Halls’ ordeal, however. Stephens said the family faced more than $500,000 in medical bills and loss of income because of the emergency. Although the family is part of a Christian healthcare sharing plan, the chief said they anticipated significant expenses.
“I asked if they would allow me to set up a Go Fund Me account for their needs and to start posting on social media asking for the strength of prayers,” the chief said. “Initially the first post reached over 738,000 viewers with 4,500 comments and 3,900 shares – this truly demonstrated the power of social media and how deep the love and compassion of Americans truly is.”
The support has been national, as law enforcement from across the country sent challenge coins, patches, blankets, donations and letters, Stephens said. But, it was the local outpouring – including a Mustang Masons Lodge that reached out to a family in need – that truly touched the chief’s heart, he said.
“We are so thankful to the Members of the Masonic Lodge of Mustang for hosting this great event,” Stephens said.
The July 16 spaghetti dinner will begin at 6 p.m. and will be held at the Mustang Lodge, located at 406 E. state Highway 152. Admission is $5 per person and additional donations are welcome, McGregor said. For those who cannot attend, the Go Fund Me page established by the chief is located at https://www.gofundme.com/3ynzniw.
“This is a family who needs our prayers, our support and funds to help them get through this time,” McGregor said. “While they have truly been blessed with a miracle, they also can use a little help from us all.”