Janice Covey and her husband, Roger Lobert, pose for a photo and smile.
Janice Covey and her husband, Roger Lobert, experienced a harrowing ordeal on a cold and snowy Michigan night. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

On a cold and icy January night, Janice Covey found her husband, Roger Lobert, lying on the side of the road.

Roger had been playing cards at a club house near his home and he left the club about 8:30 p.m. On the drive home, an icy hill caught him off guard and his car slid into a ditch. Feeling a bit dazed but determined to get home, Roger decided to walk the rest of the way.

After 10 minutes of trudging through the snow and ice, he fell and slid down a hill.

“I waited for him to arrive home and, after about 45 minutes, I realized he must be in trouble,” Janice said. “Out of the driveway I drove, my car sliding down past my home. Thankfully, I was able to get to the top of the hill, where I saw Roger (lying) on the left side of the road.”

Janice reached Roger and found he had no apparent injuries, although he had trouble breathing and his body had become cold. She couldn’t get to him because of the ice, so Roger crawled to the car and got into the back seat.

Janice used OnStar to contact 911, which brought Mecosta County EMS and Morton Township firefighters to the couple’s aid. An ambulance transported Roger to Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital at about 10 p.m.

Janice arrived soon after, thanks to a ride from Allen Sutherby, chief of Morton Township Fire Department. Once at the hospital, nurses placed Roger on a heat mattress while Andrew Rusk, MD, tended to him.

Dr. Rusk explained to Janice that her husband had become hypothermic and they would need to slowly bring his temperature up to normal.

“I have to say that Dr. Rusk was incredible,” Janice said. “He took such good care of Roger, explaining everything in a way a lay person could understand.”

After many tests, the doctor determined Roger’s heart enzymes were elevated, which can sometimes indicate a heart attack. There were no other signs that Roger had a heart attack, however, and Dr. Rusk felt the elevated enzymes were the result of hypothermia.

Dr. Rusk confirmed this after contacting Dr. Fritz at the Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center. To be safe, the hospitalist on duty still felt Roger should be transported to the heart center in Grand Rapids.

Dr. Rusk promised Janice he would not end his shift until Roger was on his way to Grand Rapids. The doctor cared for him through the night with the help of Christie Johnson, RN.

“You know, there are times when the family of a patient feels no one understands their needs. The main focus is the patient, and I understand that,” Janice said. “Yet it was proven untrue by the staff of the (Big Rapids Hospital) emergency department. Everyone we came into contact with asked if I needed anything, from a blanket to something to drink, even providing me a care bag when Roger was transported to Grand Rapids.”

The Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center discharged Roger a few days later. Today, he is doing much better.