An act of charity: how one firefighter helped a disabled teen

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 23, 2016

 Ryan McCuen

Ryan McCuen

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — One evening in February, a Clinton Township firefighter flexed his muscle to help a local family in need.

It wasn’t in the literal sense, to fight a fire or remove someone from a perilous situation. Rather, it was an act of kindness in the form of a bill payment.

On Feb. 11, Engine 5 of the Clinton Township Fire Department was dispatched to a nonemergency medical situation on Colonial Drive.

Upon arrival, firefighters found that the home’s electricity had been turned off because of past due bills. The family was strapped for cash, mainly because of circumstances within the home.

The Stone family lives at that house. Christy Stone is the mother of five children, two of whom have muscular dystrophy: 15-year-old Tyler and 18-year-old Troy.

Troy is on a full-time ventilator, which requires electricity to keep him alive. The family has had difficulties paying for rent, bills and hospital expenses. Troy spent seven weeks at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, in which he was admitted October 2015 and released sometime between Christmas and New Year’s.

Since the ventilator requires electricity, when the power was shut off, Troy was transported via ambulance to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township.

Christy Stone said she was standing in the bathroom that day when the fan went off. She tried to turn it back on to no avail. The light didn’t work either.

One firefighter, 35-year-old Ryan McCuen, who was on the scene, inquired about the outstanding balance on the electric bill. McCuen instantly called DTE Energy and explained the family’s situation.

Then he paid the $1,023.75 bill in full — all out of his own pocket. Electricity was restored in about 20 minutes.

Stone, who said the family’s electric bill has tripled since her son received his ventilator, was almost speechless.

“He was a younger guy, too, and that’s unusual for somebody at that age to say, ‘I’m going to pay that for you,’” Stone said.

She went to the fire station afterward to drop off a balloon and a thank-you card.

Troy originally had a bilevel positive airway pressure, or BPAP, mask, which helps people with apnea to breathe. Now Troy has his ventilator attached to a tracheostomy tube, which allows for a set amount of respirations and helps him breathe. A hole in the trachea, or windpipe, lets him breathe.

Christy said muscular dystrophy patients usually have a life expectancy of 18 years. Her own brother passed away from the disease in 1978, when he was 12 years old. 

McCuen said it was the second time since December that the department had gone to the Stone home. As both children suffer from MD, he said the best thing for them is to be comfortable. 

McCuen said paying their bill wasn’t something he debated prior to arriving at the house. He described the family as “good folks” who are experiencing a tough situation, and he felt it imperative to help any way he could.

“It seemed easy and obvious to me,” McCuen said. “Call it cliché — it would be the right thing to do.”

He said he fought with the decision of even telling anyone about his deed in the first place. He said part of his role is to work hard and make money to support his family. Now he wants to inspire the same members of his department who have inspired him over the years.

Fire Chief Mike Phy said McCuen’s act of benevolence is honorable and deserves recognition, just to show the kind of man he is and what the department is like as a whole.

“He only wants to help. That’s what he’s all about,” Phy said. “I haven’t seen this in all my years at the department.”

McCuen, who is also a paramedic and runs his own business on the side, discussed how his instantaneous decision was not made to achieve popularity. More so, he wanted to make a difference and inspire others to do the same.

He said it’s about how that feeling of helping someone else hits you in the right spot.

“I think sometimes you don’t want to be recognized, or you want to be under the radar,” McCuen said. “Hopefully it will inspire people to help and smile. Sometimes you need to be reminded of that. Hopefully it will give the family something better in the future, financially.

“What I did was just a small part. It makes you feel better than spending money on yourself. We can all make a difference, even in the smallest way.”

To help the family in any way, visit their GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/ssa9ruw4.

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