A typical Wednesday morning in March turned into an unforgettable day for League City Police Chief Gary Ratliff. The events unfolded when he was driving to work and noticed what at first glance looked like the scene of an accident. A man was standing on the side of the road next to a white truck with its flashers on, parked near the intersection of SH 96 and South Shore Blvd. Chief Ratliff pulled over to check out the scene, and after a quick glance realized it wasn’t a car accident.
“I saw a man sitting in the truck with his head back and his eyes narrowly opened. His chest was not moving,” said the chief.
The bystander told Ratliff he had also pulled over after noticing the man in the driver’s seat, 70-year-old William Floyd Smith, was unconscious. What they didn’t know was that Smith had gone into cardiac arrest while driving his 13-year-old grandson, William, to school that morning. William noticed something was wrong with his grandpa, and quickly dialed 9-1-1.
Chief Ratliff reached inside the truck to check if Smith had a pulse, but he couldn’t detect one. “That’s when I knew we had to act fast.”
With the help of the bystander, Chief Ratliff pulled Smith out of his truck and began performing chest compressions on Smith, hoping to revive him. After a few minutes, Smith gasped for air. Just as Smith was beginning to show signs of life, League City EMS Chief Gregory Kunkel happened upon the scene—coincidentally also passing by on his way to work—and offered to take over compressions.
With traffic now backed up due to the incident, Ratliff began directing traffic until an EMS team arrived. Paramedics showed up quickly and defibrillated Smith to restart his heart, then transferred him to the hospital.
“Our EMS team is amazing, they are the real heroes, said Ratliff. “I just did what I had to do. What I do know is that it just wasn’t Mr. Smith’s time.”
After spending a few days in the hospital and a couple of weeks resting at home, Smith has now made a full recovery and is back to working on his garden and planning his next fishing trip. He has no recollection of what happened that Wednesday morning, but he knows he is lucky to be alive.
“I can’t thank the Chief or the League City paramedics enough for what they have done for me,” he said, holding back tears. “There’s nothing I can say to express my gratitude.”
Smith is now focusing on getting stronger and plans to take a CPR class with his family, in hopes of paying it forward. He recently was able to reunite with Chief Ratliff and the rest of the EMS staff who helped save his life.
“God put us in a position to help him, and it’s part of what we as first responders strive to do every day,” said Ratliff.