On December 13, 2001 my younger brother went for a run around 4:30 pm before studying for his last final exam of the Fall semester. Approximately 15- 20 minutes into his run, his heart stopped and he collapsed on the sidewalk where there it is typically a low-traffic area. About the same time Nursing student Meg Skeele was having a frustrating day, and not paying attention, missed the turn she needed and drove on the same back road where Justin had collapsed. As the road turned, she saw a crowd gathered around what appeared to be a lifeless man- she immediately stopped her car and began performing CPR. Later, she jokes as she recalls that she had parked in front of a fire hydrant. As Meg was administering chest compressions, a Cardiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina decided to take the back road to avoid the traffic on the main road. When he saw Meg performing CPR he stopped to offer assistance until the emergency response team had arrived. The Charleston Fire Department "C Crew" lead by Chief J.T. Coles was first on the scene. They had to use an AED on Justin 7 times before they were able to regain a pulse. At that time, they told Dr. Bernard & Skeele thatJustin would be taken to a specific hospital, but that was not the case since he had no identification and it was unknown if he was insured, so he was taken to MUSC where he was checked in as a "John Doe".
As time passed, Justin's girlfriend of two years became worried because he had not met em for their study date. It was unlike him to not answer his cell phone, or give a warning at he would be late. Around 7 or 8 pm she went to his studio apartment and heard his cell phone ringing inside. She called one of their friends who basically broke through the door to his apartment to find that Justin's wallet, school books, and his prized watch were all still in place as he had left them before his run, but Justin was no where to be found. They immediately contacted the college public safety who discarded the incident, telling them to check the local detention centers. So, then they called the local police and finally called me at 11:30 pm to tell me Justin was missing. The officer had just started his shift and heard about a young man that was a "John Doe" and the puzzle pieces fit, so he escorted us to the hospital where we identified Justin. He was in the CICU in an induced comma because they immediately began hyperthermia treatment while he was on scene.
The next morning, we met Dr. Bernard. He recalled the series of events and was pleasantly surprised to start the morning seeing that a young man had survived SCA and his family was present. Again, he assumed that Justin had been taken to another hospital. He recalled the miraculous series of events and offered help to find the nursing student. Later that afternoon, we just happened to take a break in the waiting room when Meg approached us- asking if we were Justin's family. She was relieved to find out that he had first and foremost survived, and that his family was with him. She said that when the ambulance drove away all she could think about was: "That's someone's Son and they have no clue".
8 days later Justin walked out of the hospital with the exact same witty personality he had prior to the incident. Doctors advised him to consider not taking a full course load because they were still unsure if he had any neurological damage. Justin, of course, decided that he would continue life not letting this unexpected event change anything, plus it was his last semester before graduating with a Degree in Exercise Science. He completed his final semester with a 4.0 GPA.
Today Meg is a member of our family. We could never thank her enough for her courage and quick intuition. Also, the team of first responders- Charleston Fire Department, Doctors, nurses, professors, that all helped Justin deserve equal recognition as they have helped at one point through this journey.
**Below are media links about Justin's story: http://www.musc.edu/catalyst/archive/2012/co1-20luck.html
**Justin's most recent media coverage in support of Heart Month and Valentine's Day: