A Georgia man who was found unresponsive behind the wheel of a tour bus at Jones Beach was reunited today in a teary event marked by hugs and thank yous from him, his wife and two children with the Northwell Health employees who saved his life.
Brock Calhoun drove through the night to get a tour bus for the Zac Brown Band to Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in time for back-to-back performances on Sept. 2.
Calhoun was a veteran of the road, having worked with the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Gladys Knight, Styx, Black Eyed Peas, Ice Cube and Jonas Brothers, among others.
“I would spend about 300 days of the year on the road,” said Calhoun, of Evans, Ga.
But this trip was different.
He took this gig as a favor after retiring at the end of 2019. As he now says, he can’t remember anything beyond the New Jersey Turnpike. Although Calhoun arrived on site without incident and on time, his luck was about to change.
What he couldn’t have known was that Northwell had established a COVID-testing site at the theater – a completely random fact that ultimately saved his life.
“A big part of our mission at that time was to help people navigate safely during COVID. One of the organizations we partnered with was Live Nation at Jones Beach,” said Nick Stefanizzi, CEO of Northwell Direct, whose team was onsite early that morning to screen members of the band and their entourage of roadies. “This was an example of the impact you can have with the right clinicians in the right place at the right time.”
Fortunately, Michelle Chester, senior director of occupational health services operations at Northwell Health, was at the location supervising testing for Northwell Direct.
Upon discovering Calhoun blacked out in the bus, she immediately sprang into action. It took all her strength to pull Calhoun out of the seat and lay him flat. Immediately, he went into seizure and then stopped breathing altogether.
Northwell Nurse Kaya Wynter assisted Dr. Chester by bagging the patient to keep airflow while checking vitals and glucose to diagnose possible causes behind Calhoun’s sudden crash.
They managed to stabilize Mr. Calhoun as EMTs arrived and transported him to an area hospital.
“It was so important for my family and I to come here today to meet Dr. Michelle Chester and Nurse Kaya Wynter,” Calhoun said. “When someone goes out of their way to do something special for you, you just have to say thank you. I have to thank God and Dr. Chester for giving me a second chance at living my life.”
Calhoun spent more than week hospitalized at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, much of it in an induced coma after his heart stopped in the emergency department.
Calhoun had an abscess in his brain removed in 2018, which doctors told him led to a series of near-fatal grand mal seizures.
As for the team that saved him at Jones Beach, they had no idea what became of Calhoun until a mutual friend connected them one year later.
“It’s such a blessing to work in health care,” said Dr. Chester, who also made headlines on Dec. 14, 2020 by vaccinating Nurse Sandra Lindsay, the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. “In health care, it’s about being prepared for everything that comes your way. And when you get to see the end results of your work, and in Mr. Calhoun’s case, see that there are no residual effects, it’s just overwhelming.”
Today, Mr. Calhoun is healthy and happy.
He and wife Vonda, along with children Arianna Calhoun, 21, and Izaiah Quarterman, 8, are making their first trip back to New York since his medical emergency.
Their first order of business was to personally thank Chester and Wynter for the quick responses that saved his life. And to make new memories.
“When I saw my husband awake in the ICU, I knew it was God. But if not for Dr. Chester and Nurse Kaya, I know things would have been different,” said Vonda Calhoun, who was relieved to see her husband awaken from a coma after five days. “This story shows the positive character of the Northwell staff, how they all jumped into action when they saw my husband. How can we thank you enough?”