Mike Tinich was working with his Maize South High School physics students shortly after 8 a.m, grading their roller coasters, when he had a sudden bout of vertigo and fell to the floor. A quick-thinking student ran across the hall to get help. The teacher there was on the phone with the counselor, who alerted the school nurse, Katy Carter.
It was a Thursday morning — Nov. 1, 2012 — and Mike wasn’t feeling well when he woke up, but he decided to go to school. “I saw my doctor the week before for another
experience with vertigo,” says Mike, “but nothing showed up.”
As Katy rushed to Mike’s classroom she was joined by school police Officer Joel
Isaacs. Once Officer Isaacs realized this was more than just a fall, he raced back to the commons to grab the automated external defibrillator — AED — the school keeps there.
Katy arrived in the classroom, and although she hasn’t worked as a critical care nurse in 15 years, she knew exactly what she needed to do.
“Part of my job and my training is to be ready when these low-frequency events happen,” she says.
As she assessed the situation, she recognized that Mike’s heart had stopped. She began CPR compressions and then Officer Isaacs arrived with the AED. They used the AED and it administered a shock to restart Mike’s heart.
At about 8:15 a.m., Shauna Tinich’s cell phone rang. She is Mike’s wife and a science teacher at Haysville West Middle School. She knew immediately that something was wrong. On the line was Sara Richardson, assistant principal at MSHS.
Shauna sent a student to get the teacher from across the hall, and the teacher and student sprinted to the office. Two colleagues came to Shauna’s room and asked her what was wrong. She answered, “I don’t know, but I think Mike’s dead.”
“I was so glad when EMS got there,” says nurse Katy, who had been asking Mike simple questions he was able to answer. “They had so many tools that I don’t have. I had my phone and my brain.”
EMS took Mike to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis. Shauna was happy about that, she
says, “because we’ve always had good care and pleasant experiences at Via Christi.”
The hard work begins
When Mike was taken to the Cardiac Catherization Laboratory, they discovered that the three arteries that were blocked — one of them 100 percent — were not candidates for stents. That meant bypass surgery was necessary.
Shauna and Mike have two sons, Cadin, 9, and Aron, 6. When Shauna got them home, she sat them on the living room floor and tried to explain to them what had happened to their dad. She compared a heart attack to cars traveling, and when roads get blocked, that’s kind of like when arteries get blocked and blood can’t get through.
Triple bypass surgery was performed the following Monday. Mike was in the hospital for
about 10 days.
“For eight weeks I couldn’t do anything physical,” says Mike, who played college basketball at Central College of Iowa. “I didn’t get my driver’s license back until Dec. 20. The first thing I did was get in the pickup and take the boys to the park.”
Living life a little differently
Mike returned to teaching on Jan. 2. He says it will take six to 12 months to fully recover.
“You don’t think about being 37 years old and going home and going to bed at 9 because you are so tired,” he says.
He still coaches softball, but does it a little differently, such as not demonstrating how to slide because he can’t land on his chest. But he is happy to be doing the things he loves — playing with his boys, teaching science and coaching.
“I wasn’t there when it happened, so I know everything secondhand and I have nightmares about it,” says Shauna. “It must be hard on those who were there and experienced it with him. I think they are all amazing because of what they did.”