Heart attack on the golf course brings man Survival Coin

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 27, 2019


STERLING HEIGHTS — When Robert Raffin was at the Plum Brook golf course last year, he had no idea how treacherous the course ahead would be for him — not the ninth hole, but cardiac arrest.

During a Sept. 17 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, the city awarded Raffin a Survival Coin,  the 18th since the Fire Department started the program in 2016. The program celebrates survivors and first responders’ efforts following a heart attack or other cardiac event.

According to the department, Raffin was at the Plum Brook Golf Club on July 13, 2018, with three friends when he went into cardiac arrest. His friends administered CPR and called for help.

Firefighter/paramedics arrived to handle the situation. Fire Chief Chris Martin explained that rescuers had to put their gear in golf carts and drive onto the course to get to Raffin.

The rescue crews reportedly spent 16 minutes stabilizing the patient with medicine, airway management, CPR and two defibrillations, and the work restarted Raffin’s heart and restored his breathing. Raffin was hospitalized at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.

Thanks to the friends, fire crews and hospital staff, Raffin has fully recovered.

“He spent 6 1/2 weeks in the hospital, had a quadruple bypass (heart surgery) eight weeks later, and lived to call us and say, ‘Hey, I survived that,’” Martin said.

Martin explained the reason for the award’s delay.

“This one almost slipped through the cracks because at the time it happened, none of the men that responded thought that this patient had a chance of survival, so we didn’t really follow up on it,” Martin said. “But it came to be.”

The Fire Department said Raffin’s friends’ treatment was an essential part of the rescue. As a result, Martin awarded Russ Buzo, John Broses and Dr. James Caris each an Exceptional Civilian Service Award for their teamwork and CPR.

“Without ... them, we wouldn’t be here today,” Martin said.

Caris said the situation became personal, and seeing a friend suffer a cardiac event is “something you never wanted to see happen.”

“The three of us, we just reacted and did CPR,” he said. “Jack took care of calling the Fire Department and 911 and calling the clubhouse and organizing everything. And Russ and I were working on Rob at that point.”

Raffin, who has a wife and a young son, said he was touched to receive the award, and he credited the people who worked to help him survive.

“It’s not about me. It’s about these guys, those guys over there. The hundreds of doctors that were involved,” he said.

Martin also honored Fire Sgt. Tom Grady and firefighter Lance Stevens for their contributions to the rescue effort.

Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski encouraged the public to learn how to do CPR.

“If you have any inkling at all, and even if you’re scared to learn, there are many opportunities to do so,” she said. “We’re hoping to open up, with (the) Sterling Heights Fire Department, to be able to teach residents.”

Councilman Michael Radtke praised the Fire Department for being one of the state’s best.

“I believe the care we provide here is lifesaving,” he said.

Find our more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489.