8/16/2013 7:30:00 PM Lightning response saves a life
Heidi Dahms Foster/Review
Chino Valley Firefighter/paramedics Doug Copenhaver, Terry Jacobson and Rob Zazueta stand with Roy and Ginny Row. Firefighters, along with three of Row’s friends, saved his life when he was struck by lightning on July 25 during a storm at the Antelope Hills Golf Course.
Heidi Dahms-Foster Former Editorial Manager
Roy Row is appreciating life a little more than the average person these days. That's because he nearly lost his after lightning struck him on July 25 while he was playing a round at Antelope Hills Golf Course.
Row and his wife Ginny visited Aug. 10 with the Chino Valley Fire District crew that helped save his life, including Firefighter/paramedics Doug Copenhaver, Terry Jacobson, and Rob Zazueta. The three were manning the Prescott Fire station at the airport, assisting Prescott after the department was devastated by the loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in the Yarnell Hill Fire June 30.
Row said he regularly golfs with a group of friends. Just two weeks before he was struck, he observed a storm, and felt uncomfortable enough to leave.
On July 25, however, Row, along with Dave Helgelson, Dick Nichols, and Craig Finis, engaged in a "typical lousy game, but we were having a good time," he said.
"We had finished 17, and we were on hole 18, near the intersection of Willow Creek Road and Highway 89, when this massive dark cloud came almost over the course. As we teed off on 18, I saw this one bolt of lightning over Glassford Hill. I told the guys, 'Gee, I think things are getting dangerous here,' Row said.
But they decided to play through because they were so close to finishing.
Ironically, the four joked as they traveled the fairway.
"Dave said, 'I wonder, do you suppose you feel a lightning strike before it hits?' We jawed about this down the fairway," Row said. "When I saw Dave in the hospital I said, 'I've got the answer for you!'"
In fact, Row said he had no inkling he was about to be hit.
"Dave and Dick were across the fairway under the trees and Craig was about 30 feet away in the other direction," he said. "When the lightning hit me I had just looked back at Craig and he was putting his clubs away. He says at the time it occurred, he felt a tingling on his head, and ducked. When he looked up I was on the ground, and so were Dave and Dick, but they were getting up."
Row said his friends thought he was pretending to be unconscious.
"Dave and Dick hollered at me to get up. I didn't move and they hollered again and came over. Dave's description of my condition was, 'Well, you really don't want to know,'" he said.
While his friends began chest compressions and called 911, the Chino Valley Fire crew had been listening to the radio crackle inside the station as the massive storm moved over the course and lightning began to strike.
When the station's printer began to spit out paper, signifying a call, said Jacobson, it was right after a big strike. That's when Zazueta said, "I bet you a golfer has been struck by lightning." Seconds later the radio dispatched them to a lightning strike.
Another one of the small miracles of the day occurred that morning. A man stopped in and asked for directions to the clubhouse. Zazueta had to get the map out and direct him, and that's how, while manning an unfamiliar station, they were able to get to Row within four minutes.
"We were right around the corner," Zazueta said. "Everything went right that day that needed to go right."
When the crew arrived at the scene, they found Row not breathing and without a pulse. They put a monitor on him, placed defibrillator pads on his chest, and prepared to start IVs. The Lifeline Ambulance supervisor told them, "We may need to shock him."
That's when, in the driving rain and as the firefighters tried to shield his body from hailstones, Jacobson looked down and saw Row take a gulping breath. Then he felt a slow pulse that became stronger and stronger.
Seeing Row return to life is, in 13 years, "definitely one of my top calls," Jacobson said.
The next thing Row remembers is Zazueta asking him to roll sideways so firefighters could get the body board out from under him at the hospital.
His wife went to Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott and found him "laying on a table and covered with I don't know how many blankets. He was just shaking all over."
That was a good sign, she said, he was alive.
Row suffered a ruptured eardrum, some minor burns on his body, and some inflammation of his eyelids and eye membranes. He said he's still pretty weak and wants to sleep a lot, but his voice, and his grip, are strong. He said he owes it all to God.
"He wanted me around for some reason. I was blessed with these (firefighters) and Dave and Dick's talents to save me," he said.
Zazueta said the events of the entire day were "of a higher nature." He said the crew had spent much of the day talking for the first time among themselves since their colleagues died in the Yarnell Hill fire.
"The whole day was a mending process for us as a crew. We were meant to be there," he said.
Row said he always has appreciated firefighters, but now his admiration for their skills has grown exponentially.
"This (event) brings it home in a very critical way," he said.