NORMAL — In a room full of firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses and dispatchers, the hero of the hour was a 9-year-old boy.
Ryan Rice of Normal was presented a life saving award by Normal Fire Department, a young hero award by OSF St. Joseph Medical Center and a certificate of appreciation by McLean County Area EMS for calling 911 when his father was having a stroke and for describing symptoms so paramedics knew how to respond.
“You started a chain of events that ultimately saved your father’s life,” Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer told Ryan during a presentation at Normal Fire Headquarters on Friday.
Ryan and his father, David Rice, 48, were in their Normal home preparing to go swimming on May 19 when David suddenly became dizzy and fell to the floor. His speech was slurred and he couldn’t get up because the left side of his body was paralyzed.
Ryan, then 8, called his mother, Cheryl Rice. She was out of town and told Ryan to call 911.
“He said he was afraid and I reminded him that we practiced (calling 911),” Cheryl recalled. Ryan learned what to do in emergencies through Cub Scouts and in his second-grade class, his mother said.
Ryan called 911. A recording of the 911 call was played during Friday’s ceremony. Ryan told a dispatcher what happened and answered her questions about his dad’s condition. She kept Ryan on the line, reassuring him as she gathered more information for paramedics, who were on their way.
“I’m scared,” Ryan said. The dispatcher assured Ryan that he was doing well.
When paramedics arrived, they determined David was having a stroke. He was taken to St. Joseph where Dr. Ajeet Gordhan, an interventional neuroradiologist, used a Solitaire device — essentially a miniature corkscrew — that he threaded through David’s blood stream and into the clot and then pulled it out to remove the clot and restore blood flow to the brain.
“I was really nervous,” Ryan admitted Friday. But he felt good about saving his dad’s life. “I want to be like my dad.”
David said he has returned to work, exercise and “living a normal life.
“I’m so proud of him (Ryan). The way he handled himself was well beyond his years. He’s my hero.”
Gordhan, Humer and EMS Director Greg Scott said the message of Ryan’s story is for parents to teach their children to call 911 in an emergency.
“If they have a situation like that,” Ryan said, “they could do what I did.”