When Lexi Lindsey embarked on a journey to see Justin Timberlake in concert, she probably didn’t expect to save a life along the way. However, when the high-schooler saw a figure slump over onto the road, she found herself compelled to take action. And as the car in which Lindsey was traveling stopped, she raced straight over to see if she could help the stricken man – who appeared, it seemed, to be in very dire straits.
At first glance, there’s not much that obviously connects Lindsey with Brian Putt. After all, while she’s a young student at Bedford North Lawrence High School (BNL), he’s a U.S. Navy vet decades her senior. Nevertheless, as Lindsey set out to see a Justin Timberlake show in April 2019, her and Putt’s paths crossed in a very serendipitous way.
Putt had formerly served on a U.S. Navy submarine and currently works at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane in Indiana. During a work-related visit to Florida, though, the father of two had endured some health problems. And after Putt had experienced those issues, doctors went on to diagnose him with an irregular heartbeat – also known as cardiac arrhythmia.
Cardiac arrhythmia – which can affect anyone of any age – usually manifests in one of five ways. The most frequently occurring is atrial fibrillation (AF), which results in a more rapid and inconsistent heartbeat. Age and certain lifestyle choices increase the risk of AF.
Another kind of arrhythmia, supraventricular tachycardia, causes a drastic increase in the sufferer’s heartbeat –even when they’re inactive. Bradycardia, by contrast, slows down the sufferer’s heart rhythms, as does heart block – with this decrease in speed even having the potential to make sufferers pass out.
The final and most uncommon form of arrhythmia is called ventricular fibrillation (VF) – a rapid change in heartbeat frequency. It’s also arguably the most dangerous, as the onset of VF can quickly turn fatal. Yet there is some good news for those who have been diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia: the condition is typically treatable.
For example, surgeons can implant an arrhythmia sufferer with a cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). And this device functions in a similar manner to the medical paddle defibrillator that emits an electric current to shock a person’s heart into restarting; in this case, however, the ICD is inserted beneath the patient’s skin.
More specifically, the ICD is implanted in the body – typically beneath the collar bone – and connected to the heart via wires. Then, when the device senses unusual heartbeat activity that could lead to a cardiac arrest, it consequently administers an electric shock to correct any arrhythmia without the aid of a manual defibrillator.
And that’s exactly what doctors did for Putt to help regulate his heart condition. What’s more, as the dad told Bedford, Indiana’s Times-Mail in April 2019, the ICD initially functioned as it should. “For a year, everything went perfectly,” Putt revealed. On one day when he was out and about, though, he began to experience difficulties.
At the same time, Lindsey was heading towards Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse arena for the Timberlake show. The singer’s stop on his “Man of the Woods” tour had initially been scheduled for late 2018, but organizers had ultimately postponed the concert when Timberlake damaged his vocal chords. The show was back on in April 2019, though, and Lindsey was on her way there when she saw something strange.
As Lindsey and her companions passed through Monroe County, you see, she noticed that a car was parked up alongside State Road 37 and that a man was seemingly trying to climb the grass incline towards the vehicle. Lindsey could tell that the individual’s progress was labored, too, and his condition only seemed to deteriorate further as she watched.
“[The man] started waving his arms, and he fell to the ground,” Lindsey later told the Times-Mail. “I screamed, ‘Stop the car!’” Then, as soon as the vehicle came to a halt, she took off at a sprint towards the fallen figure. Unknown to Lindsey at the time, that man was Putt, and he was suffering his first ICD-related problem since receiving his implant.
And Putt was very lucky that Lindsey spotted him – not least because she’d had prior medical training. Yes, the BNL senior is undertaking a course in health care at the North Lawrence Career Center (NLCC) – ostensibly to improve her future job options.
In addition, the class has covered some medical training, including basic first aid, Stop the Bleed preparation and CPR. And as a result of Lindsey’s coaching, she had the confidence to remain calm under pressure in medical emergencies– something that she put into practice with Putt.
So, Lindsey first called 911 during her dash towards the collapsed Putt, who had fallen onto the road. Then her instinct was to drag him towards the roadside, which was a challenge in and of itself. “He was a pretty big guy,” Lindsey recalled. The good news, though, was that Putt managed to cling onto consciousness.
And although Putt was clearly distressed, he nevertheless informed his rescuer that there was a problem with his heart. His ICD was sending shocks straight to the organ, in fact, and it was this which had caused his collapse. “He was wearing a FitBit, and I could see that his heart rate was extremely high,” Lindsey explained. “I was ready to do CPR if I had to.”
Other passers-by also noticed Putt’s predicament and stopped to assist, including a gentleman wearing a high-visibility jacket. He helped Lindsey and Putt by warning oncoming traffic to keep a wide berth around. But the high-school senior was the only person present with any kind of medical background, so she stayed by Putt’s side.
Furthermore, thanks to her training, Lindsey knew what to do when Putt went into a seizure. “I turned him on his side to keep his airway clear,” she informed the Times-Mail. Then, since Putt’s fit passed during the wait for the first responders to arrive, Lindsey struck up a conversation with the dad to keep him calm.
“He told me he had a heart attack in 2018 and that he had been feeling funky all day,” Lindsey later said of Putt. She added, “We called [Putt’s] wife to let her know what was going on.” During all the commotion, however, Lindsey didn’t even get her patient’s name.
Then, when the ambulance arrived, both Putt and medical staff informed Lindsey that her prompt reaction had made all the difference. “[Putt] told me and the EMT told me that I saved his life,” Lindsey recalled. It was only afterwards, though, during her trip to the concert, that the senior realized the importance of her actions.
“I cried later from the stress,” Lindsey revealed. “I’m so glad I knew what to do. If I hadn’t had the class, I wouldn’t have known what to do.” And the teachers she later informed about the incident agreed that her response had been exemplary.
NLCC’s health careers and medical terminology teacher Terri Briscoe spoke very highly of Lindsey, for instance. “Even if our students don’t go into a health career, these classes introduce them to life skills,” Briscoe explained to the Times-Mail. “Because Lexi had taken the class, she was able to talk to [Putt and] tell him to take slow, deep breaths, which was very important.”
In addition, Lindsey’s actions had impressed her instructor, Heidi Myers. “I love that [Lindsey] had the frame of mind to do what she did,” Myers said. “She had the calm presence of mind and skills to take care of that man until help arrived.” Meanwhile, although the man’s identity remained a mystery to Lindsey, she hoped that he was recovering well.
And it turns out that Putt subsequently spent a couple of days in good hands, with doctors deciding to treat his heart using an ablation. An ablation is a procedure that creates scar tissue on the heart muscles that are responsible for causing the patient’s arrhythmia, and there are two variations: cryoablation, which freezes the target muscles, and radiofrequency ablation, which burns them.
In addition, the ablation should also prevent any unwanted electrical impulses from triggering arrhythmia in the future. Fortunately, then, as a result of the treatment, Putt’s ICD stopped shocking his heart, and he eventually returned to health. But he never forgot the young girl who saved his life – and he wanted to know exactly who she was, too.
Thankfully, some of Putt’s work colleagues happen to be from Bedford, and they had spotted the Times-Mail news report about the incident that mentioned Lindsey. And when Putt learned the name of his rescuer, he set out to thank her properly. The Navy vet paid a surprise visit to the NLCC for just that reason, in fact.
When Putt arrived in Lindsey’s classroom armed with a bunch of flowers, though, he was greeted with an emotional response from the young woman who had done so much to ensure his survival. Indeed, Lindsey broke out in floods of tears as Putt wrapped her up in a grateful embrace.
And during the visit, Putt not only passed on his own gratitude but also that of his family and friends. According to the Times-Mail, the choked-up Lindsey replied, “I’m just glad you’re okay.” Thereafter, the Navy vet spent some time talking to his rescuer and her classmates about the events of that day.
“I wanted you to know I’m more than just a bigger guy,” the 6’2” Putt teased after reading Lindsey’s description of him in the original news report. He continued by revealing how seeing the article had given him an insight into how his medical emergency had affected Lindsey’s day.
“You’re going down a path, and it gets altered,” Putt said by way of explanation. He suggested, however that it hadn’t just been Lindsey’s training that had driven her reaction. “What made you stop? It’s something called character,” Putt told his audience. “What is that? It’s doing the right thing when no one else will.”
From the Navy vet’s point of view, in fact, Lindsey has done more than save his life. And Putt believes that she’s proven what young people are capable of when they rise to the occasion. “You have so much character; you broke down a stereotype for your generation,” Putt told Lindsey.
“You guys are eating Tide pods,” Putt joked to the assembled seniors. The Navy vet’s underlying message was a serious one, though, and its relevance applied to everybody. “Anyone in this room could be a hero,” he elaborated. “You don’t have to save a life. If you see an elderly person in the store, help them with groceries.”
And, as the Times-Mail later reported, Putt had explained his arrhythmia to the class as “basically, your brain is telling your heart to do some crazy things.” In addition, the father went on to detail the events that transpired after Lindsey had left him with medical staff.
What seemed to impress Putt most of all, though, was the level-headedness that Lindsey displayed as she worked to save his life. “I’ve seen grown men in the Navy break down in stressful situations,” he told everyone. And Putt had one last token of gratitude for his rescuer – although some backstory was required to explain its significance.
Putt began his tale by detailing both his Naval background and what he had experienced after enlistment. The first year of his service, he revealed, was spent aboard a submarine as a non-useful body (NUB). And that status meant the rookie couldn’t pick up any weapons; all he could do, in fact, was observe his superiors and familiarize himself with the vehicle’s operation systems.
Then, at the end of that inaugural year in the Navy, Putt had to endure a grueling knowledge test before he could boast of being sufficiently knowledgeable about submarine procedures. “For 20 years, I was a submarine guy,” he said. “The proudest day of my submarine career was when I earned my dolphins.”
The dolphins that Putt mentioned are actually a reference to a U.S. Navy military insignia that depict a pair of the mammals each resting at the side of a submarine at sea. The emblem, which takes the form of a pin, dates back to 1923 and was designed by commanding officers to enable seniority to be identified at a glance. And owing to their diving and surfacing abilities, dolphins were deemed a fitting symbol for submarine servicemen.
Moreover, not only are dolphins nature’s submarines, but sailors also consider the aquatic mammals as a patron of sorts. So you can imagine what the insignia meant to Putt when, after his tribulations, officers presented him with the honor. Putt hinted at the pin’s importance when he held up the item in Lindsey’s class and said, “You’re not given these; you earn them.”
“I was awarded [the dolphins on] October 19, 1993,” the former serviceman explained. Then, as the Times-Mail later recounted, he presented Lindsey with his pin, telling her, “You earned them.” Yet Lindsey, for her part, remained humble in the face of an honor. “I’m just glad to know I helped,” she said. “And that what I did actually meant something and [that Putt’s] okay.”