"I don't feel right:" Trooper's 'FAST' action saves deputy from stroke

Published: Mar. 11, 2019 at 10:36 PM CDT
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As he stood inside a home in Perry speaking with people involved in a domestic dispute, Jefferson Co. Sheriff's deputy Tim Bacon knew something wasn't right.

"My right hand's my gun hand, and I tried to move my hand, and it was just like a board. I couldn't do anything with it," Bacon recalls. "It kinda freaked me out thinking if something goes south, I'm helpless here."

Fortunately, Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Starr responded as his backup Sunday morning, March 3.

Crossing Paths

Starr has been a KHP trooper for seven years.

"He's one of those guys, when he shows up on the scene, it's, 'Okay, things are going to be okay now.' No matter how bad it gets, he shows up, it's gonna be good," Bacon says of Starr.

Starr uses the word "spunky" to describe Bacon, who's served seven years with the Jefferson Co. Sheriff's Office.

"Tim's very active, very lively, always has a smile in his face," Starr says.

With Starr's territory encompassing Jefferson County, the two regularly cross paths. Their camaraderie made all the difference when they responded to a call that took an unexpected turn.

The Call

Bacon was working at the Jefferson Co. Law Enforcement Center when the call came for a domestic incident in Perry. As he headed out the door, he noticed his leg felt numb.

"I thought my leg just went to sleep, so I went to my car to go to my call, started driving down 59 Highway and it started working it's way up my back and into my arm," Bacon said. "When I arrived on scene, I couldn't even get my seatbelt undone."

Still, he kept going.

"Well, I had to get to my call. Someone else needed the help," Bacon shrugged. "It's kinda what we do."

By the time he was talking to people at the scene, he knew something was wrong. That's when Starr arrived as backup, and joined Bacon inside the home.

"Tim seemed a little more withdrawn," Starr recalls. "When we came out on the porch, Tim looked at me and said, 'Mike, am I right? I don't feel right.'"

The Signs

Starr quickly realized the classic symptoms of a stroke, summed up in the acronym FAST: face, arms, speech, and time.

"When I looked at him, I noticed the right side of his face was kinda drooping, and he had slurred the entire speech that he gave to me," Starr says.

There also was the arm weakness. It was time to get Bacon to the hospital.

The 30-year-old, married father of two young boys, was having a stroke.

Starr got Bacon to his patrol vehicle. Moments later, additional backup arrived to take over the domestic scene, and Starr made a decision.

Quick Action

Starr started his career on an ambulance crew. With that background, and with EMS in constant contact, he set off for the emergency room at Stormont Vail. As he was en route, EMS notified the ER staff, and they initiated their stroke response protocol, with a team ready for their arrival.

Along the way, Starr says Bacon's speech became worse, and he kept telling his friend and colleague "he needed to breath."

Bacon says he recalls much of the drive and arriving at the hospital - he just couldn't express any of it.

"I can remember seeing the sheriff in front of me in the ER and he asked me what his name was. And I couldn't get it out," Bacon said.

Positive Prognosis

Incredibly, three days later, Bacon was walking around the law enforcement center, talking with colleagues and getting hugs - with no obvious signs anything was wrong.

"He looks a lot better," Starr says. "This is the Tim I know."

"I feel pretty good," Bacon said. "I have a little bit more to deal with before I can go back to work, but I'll be okay."

Bacon says it's all because of Starr. The trooper's recognition of the symptoms, and quick action, got Bacon to the ER in time for doctors to administer medication that stopped the stroke from doing major damage.

Still, Starr is uncomfortable with people calling him a hero.

"I think Tim would have done the same thing for me," he said. "I'm grateful he's sitting here now in this condition and we're not doing this at the hospital."

Bacon begs to differ.

"He saved my life as far as I'm concerned," Bacon said. "If he wouldn't have gotten me to the hospital, there's no way I'd be sitting here today. And when you ask about that word hero - I definitely would say definitely."

Lessons Learned

Starr and Bacon say everyone can learn from what unfolded.

For Starr, the lesson is to pay attention to the people around you. He says had he not gotten to know Bacon from their interactions over the years, he may not have realized something was off.

Bacon hopes people take away a message of listening to their bodies and getting help when they know something is wrong.

"Don't be bullheaded like me," he said. "You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others."