Geoff Duncklee was there to help a member of News 12's team when he needed it the most. (WRDW-TV / Feb. 1, 2012)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Our Time To Care winner for February is an Army nurse who was in the right place at the right time to save a man's life.
It's a story that hits close to home for those of us who work here, because the life he saved is a member of the News 12 family.
Mike Oates is general sales manager at News 12. And as much as he loves his career, he may love running even more.
"I'm a healthy guy," Mike said. "I've been an active guy. I'm 53 years old. I've been an active guy all my life."
But a run back in October changed his life. In fact, it almost ended it.
The day just happened to start with a prayer.
"And as every Saturday morning before I head out the door, Penny and I have our little prayer, have our little kiss goodbye, 'I love you and I'll see you later.' Mike said.
Mike will tell you he doesn't remember what happened next because one minute he was running and the next, his heart stopped beating.
He literally dropped dead.
"I was gone," Mike said. "I didn't have a pulse."
Army Major Geoff Duncklee just happened to be on the same path for a Cub Scout outing with his sons.
"I saw him laying face down behind one of the trees on the sidewalk. Touched him on the shoulder to see if he was responsive -- and I didn't get anything," Geoff remembered.
Geoff also just happens to be an Army Nurse.
"He was blue. His lips were purple," Geoff said. "So it didn't look real good."
And so while he gave Mike CPR, someone else called 911.
Back at home, Mike's wife Penny knew he was running late, so she hopped in the car to look for him.
"And I saw an ambulance and a firetruck and all of these people," Penny remembered. "My heart just dropped and I quickly did a U-turn in the road and I went back."
And with Mike and Penny now in the ambulance, Geoff thought it could go either way.
"We stopped right there and said a prayer that that wasn't the last time we'd see him again," Geoff said.
But Mike was not out of the woods yet. His heart would stop beating again on the way to the hospital.
"They lost him again in the ambulance," Penny said. "And from what we have since been told, with the rhythm that he had, he really should not have been able to have been shocked back."
When doctors finally got to Mike, they realized the main artery that feeds the heart and tells it to beat and keeps him running was 100 percent blocked.
"Everybody has a little bit of plaque in their arteries," Mike explained. "While I was running, a piece flaked off, broke lose and completely stopped my heart."
What that means to Penny is that if Geoff had not been at the right place at the right time -- Mike would not be with her today.
"I really don't know what to say to the person that saved my husband's life and gave him back to me," Penny said. "His humbling response, and I will never forget this was -- 'I am just really proud to be the vessel that God choose to use that day.'"
"The pieces were just lined up right in a row," Mike said. "And Geoff was the first piece and I'm here today because of Geoff."
Now, just a matter of months after his near-death experience, our friend and co-worker is back running again. A day that nearly ended his life ended up changing it forever.
"I try to live it all. I try to do it all. And the ones around you that you love, you've got to tell them every day -- and mean it," Mike added.
Penny knows this story could have ended differently.
"He's a walking miracle," she said. "He's doing great."
There's only one big problem for Mike. He's a huge Gamecock fan and Geoff graduated from Clemson. That's something he'll just have to live with the rest of his life.