CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) – Sometimes, the closest calls happen to the people who least expect it.
Tim Griffin knows that all too well. In recent years, the Carmel firefighter and father of five has turned into something of a WISH-TV celebrity.
Griffin appears frequently on Indy Style and our Daybreak newscasts, sharing tips on safety, fitness and healthy eating. Viewers tell us they enjoy his wide smile, his enthusiasm and his energy.
But this March, he nearly lost all of that. Griffin says his life changed – and nearly ended – over the course of a few minutes.
“My heart went ‘Dadadadadah!'” Griffin recalls. “That’s the best way I can describe it. I felt it soar off.”
He believes it started when he worked out hard but failed to drink enough water to re-hydrate. Then he picked up a stomach bug that caused him to lose what little fluids his body did have. But instead of heading to bed, he tried to continue with his weekend family routine.
Looking back, Griffin’s wife, Teresa, says he tried to do far too much.
“He didn’t ever once stop to think, “Maybe I should sit down,’ until his body said ‘I can’t do it anymore,'” Teresa said.
Tim calls Teresa one of his heroes for what she did that day. When Tim started to feel awful, Teresa got the car and the kids and started to drive him to the hospital. Then, when Tim felt his heart start to really race, she turned toward the nearest fire station instead.
There, he found colleagues like Lt. Michael McNeely, who says he took one look and knew his friend was in deep trouble.
“We definitely clicked from a friendly relationship to ‘This work now. He’s a patient'”, McNeely says.
McNeely and other firefighters helped Griffin into an ambulance and hooked him up to a heart monitor.
The numbers were truly frightening. His heart was beating 250 times a minute. Griffin was in supraventricular tachycardia.
“Which is so fast, it cannot sustain a blood pressure to get blood to your vital organs,” says McNeely.
Griffin says, “I went, ‘Okay. This isn’t a dream.This is for real.'”
As patient and EMT, Griffin understood his situation all too well.
He predicted, and the paramedics and doctors agreed, that he would need a powerful drug called adenosine.
McNeely explains its power: “It will briefly stop your heart, in hopes that it restarts correctly.”
Teresa Griffin recalls, “The doctor was saying ‘He’s strong, he can handle it. He’s young, he can handle it.’ And Tim was saying ‘I need the medicine’.
Once he got a dose, the effect was dramatic.
“His body lifted up off the bed,” recalls Teresa. “His whole body lifted up. And it was very frightening.”
Frightening, but not fatal. Griffin’s body survived the shock and with further treatment it eventually stopped rebelling.
He now has his health and an important lesson learned.
“I try to stay healthy,” Tim Griffin explains, with a healthy dose of humiliy. “Sometimes you need to lean on others for help. Or you need to realize ‘I’m sick, and I need to slow down today.”