King City man thought he might be saved by a fire engine but not a Gator
Brian Luoto was just cruising along Royalty Parkway in King City in his John Deere Gator on Dec. 4 around 1 p.m. when he saw someone in trouble in a driveway near the golf course.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," said the popular facility and grounds maintenance employee at the King City Civic Association. "I saw a little bit of a commotion, but I didn't know what it was."
It was Jerry Warrington, 89, who had suffered a minor stroke and was trying to get help.
He was home alone while his wife Myrtle, 85, was volunteering at the Discovery Shop in the Willowbrook Center at Pacific Highway and Durham Road when the mini-stroke hit.
"I fell in the house and couldn't reach the phone up on the counter," Jerry said. "I was on my hands and knees and couldn't get to my cell phone either. So I thought I'd crawl out of the house and flag down someone driving by.
"I knew I couldn't lose consciousness, and I was trying to cut across the juniper to the sidewalk because I was too weak to cross our driveway. I made it to the neighbor's driveway and waved at passing cars, but no one stopped. Then I took out my handkerchief and waved it, and two people stopped. People just wouldn't stop until I took out my handkerchief and waved it."
Brian recognized Jerry, although he was one driveway over from his own house - the one with the windmill - and a couple of people were standing over him.
"Jerry was at the wrong house, and someone had already called 9-1-1," Brian said. "He recognized me and the Gator. I dropped anchor, and we got him standing up by the neighbor's truck. Jerry held onto that truck like his life depended on it."
Rain was pouring down, so Brian covered Jerry with his jacket.
"Then we got him into the front of the garage onto a crate," Brian said. "The other two people left, and we waited for help. The fire truck got here first and then the ambulance."
Jerry explained, "It didn't take a split second for Brian to make a U-turn and come back. I felt pretty safe once I was with Brian. He said, 'It's OK, I've got you.'
"He's so big and strong. He picked me up and held me up, and I weigh 180 pounds. That's all I remember - hanging on to Brian. I don't even remember the ambulance coming. Brian saved the day - he's a good guy. He has a heart as big as his head."
Brian replied, "Jerry is one of the best. I have seen this type of thing before with my stepdad, and a long time ago, I helped a man having a heart attack on the No. 9 green, and a lady at the aquatics center had an incident - I've witnessed a few of these things."
At the time Brian and Jerry were waiting for the ambulance, Jerry was supposed to pick up Myrtle in their truck at 1 p.m. when her shift at the Discovery Shop ended, and she was waiting.
"When he didn't come to pick me up, I went back in the Discovery Shop and called home, but there was no answer," she said. "I went back outside and heard the ambulance and fire truck sirens headed toward King City, and I just knew it was Jerry.
"Jerry was able to communicate with Dennis, our next-door neighbor, who by then had come out of his house, and he came and picked me up. As we were pulling out of the Willowbrook Center parking lot, I saw the ambulance go by on Durham Road headed toward (Legacy) Meridian Park (Medical Center), and I knew it was Jerry."
Dennis drove Myrtle home so she could drive to the hospital in her own truck.
"I remembering waking up in the hospital with no clothes on, but I was back home that evening," Jerry said. "It was a happy ending for me. I've had nine or 10 of these mini-strokes - you can't be 40 forever."
After Jerry went off in the ambulance, Brian went back to work but kept thinking about Jerry all day.
Brian was originally hired to re-landscape the areas around the Clubhouse and Crown Center and never left, having worked for the KCCA for almost 16 years, while the Warringtons have lived in King City for almost 24 years.
The friends have bonded over - among many things - bread. When the weekly bread delivery is made to the Clubhouse, Brian always makes a point of picking up some cinnamon bread for the Warringtons - "the thickest I can find" - and personally delivering it to the couple.
Myrtle joked, "I'm going to show him where the pots and pans are so he can make his own French toast."
But seriously, she added, "He called right after work on the day he helped Jerry and again around 8 that night when Jerry was back home, and he stopped by the next day. We can't say enough about him."
The feeling is mutual, with Brian saying, "These people mean the world to me. We need to keep people like Jerry and Myrtle around."
Myrtle replied, "Thank God for the paramedics and people like Brian. We look forward to seeing Brian around."
And Jerry added, "Brian is just a prince of a guy. I sure appreciate everything he did."