KALKASKA — His coaches call Jacob Birgy “a quiet kid” but 250,000 people have read his story.
The junior on the Kalkaska football team went viral on Facebook because he saved a man’s life after football practice.
The Blazers played their first game against Grayling on Friday, but Birgy said he wasn’t rattled by his newfound fame.
The life-saving event was the most nerve-wracking few minutes he’d ever experienced.
“I don’t think I could get any more nervous than I did there,” Birgy said.
On a Sept. 8 evening — a Tuesday — Birgy was driving down Supply Road in Kalkaska near Woodland School when he noticed something amiss among a group of adults on the side of the road.
He pulled a U-turn to check on the two men sitting aside their truck.
“I ran up to them and said ‘What’s going on?’ He said ‘I don’t know, my friend just collapsed,’” Birgy said.
Birgy asked if the man had called 911 yet, to which the friend said he hadn’t, dabbing the man’s head with a handkerchief in shock.
The man had no pulse, nor was he breathing.
So Birgy took the lead and called 911, concerned about the unconscious man.
The dispatcher told him to start chest compressions until help arrived, Birgy recalled.
The next 5- to 8 minutes, Birgy pumped blood through the man’s body, guided by the 911 operator over the phone.
Birgy had taken a 2-hour CPR class the prior school year at Kalkaska, and his mom, Elizabeth, is a nurse at Kalkaska Memorial Hospital.
“I put (the operator) on speaker and I set my phone on the ground,” Birgy said. “I remember from training that you put your hands down on the breastbone right in between the chest, and you go down about two inches. He starts counting out, one-two, one-two, one-two and it speeds up.”
Soon a man on a motorcycle noticed Birgy making an effort to revive the man, and then joined the effort to help. He was a former medic in the Navy. Birgy asked him to take over, as he said he had more experience in CPR.
Five to eight minutes after that, the man woke up before first responders arrived.
“The police officer was walking up on the scene and the guy wakes up and he takes a deep breath and he goes, ‘Where am I?’ ‘What’s going on?’” Birgy said. “Minute or two later, the ambulance got there, and by that time he was talking. He was sitting up and talking.”
Recalling the story over the phone days after it happened, Birgy still couldn’t believe how the situation transpired.
“My adrenaline was quite high at that moment,” Birgy said. “I was sitting there wondering to myself, ‘Wow. How? What just happened?” Birgy said. “I couldn’t really get a full thought coming.”
Birgy said there wasn’t really a thought process in his decision to turn his car around, “it was almost like second nature”
Kalkaska football coach Jeremy Wilkinson called Birgy a quiet kid, humble and almost naive to the attention the event has garnered.
Wilkinson said deep down he knows Birgy doesn’t care about it.
“He’s a quiet kid, he kind of stays to himself a bit until he’s someone you get to know, then he’ll open up a bit,” Wilkinson said.
“This was something that he wasn’t telling everyone about, he wasn’t bragging to everyone what he did to try and draw attention to himself because it’s not what he wanted.
“I don’t know if he realizes how huge of a thing was what he did. Once people started hearing about it, it really took off around the community.”
Justin Harlan, the Blazers quarterback called Birgy a nice kid, knowing him since at least fifth grade. He wasn’t sure if he’d have done the same thing Birgy did if he were in the same situation.
“Honestly, if I saw a guy laying down, maybe I would,” he said. “If I saw him in a car or pulled over, I don’t know if I would.”