When Bruce Mcelmury arrived at the Hutchinson High School football game Sept. 10, he had never met Amy Rogotzke, a physical therapist and the team’s athletic trainer. But by the time Mcelmury was taken away in an ambulance, the two would never forget each other for the rest of their lives.
Mcelmury, a U.S. Army veteran, was at the game as part of the team’s Red, White and Blue Night honoring veterans and first responders. During the event, he suffered a heart attack on the field but was saved thanks to the quick actions of Rogotzke. During Hutchinson Homecoming Night Oct. 8, the two reunited on the field as Rogotzke received the American Legion Gold Heroism Award for her lifesaving efforts a month earlier.
“She is my angel,” Mcelmury said in a press release. “I was gone for three minutes and her and other heroes brought me back. I have a new lease on life and I will forever by grateful for her heroic actions.”
Mcelmury said he doesn’t remember much from that fateful September evening. He was standing on the sideline during the pregame ceremony and started feeling hot and dizzy. As he went to sit on a bench, he stumbled a bit, and that’s when Rogotzke noticed him.
“She came up to me and said, ‘Are you OK?’” Mcelmury said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ Those are the last words I recall.”
As Mcelmury fell unconscious, Rogotzke lowered him to the ground, called for assistance and immediately began CPR. To this day, she says, it’s hard to comprehend how her instincts took over in that situation.
“It almost doesn’t feel real still,” she said. “But at the same time … you practice it so many times beforehand, you get your recertifications every year to make sure you’re up on your skills you hope you never use. But it’s one of those (things) you recognize it and you just kind of kick into automatic gear.”
Mcelmury regained consciousness that night and was taken by ambulance from the field to Hutchinson Health, where he was grateful for the work of doctors who helped him recover. A few days later, he and Rogotzke met again for the first time since incident.
“We hugged and I had tears of joy in my eyes,” Mcelmury said. “We talked, and I didn’t want to let go of her.”
“It was really fun to see him and see his family and be a part of it and make it even more real,” Rogotzke said of meeting. “It’s really cool to see the impact you’ve made on someone else and their family.”
Following that night, Tim Burley, the Hutchinson American Legion Post 96 commander, researched the Legion’s Gold Heroism Medal and discovered it could be awarded at the local level at a commander’s discretion.
“She was there on the scene and put her training into action and saved the life of one of our community veterans, and we’re forever grateful for that,” Burley said.
Rogotzke had no idea she would need to save a life that night, and Mcelmury had no idea he would need an angel. But the two were in the right place at the right time for a positive outcome to happen, and now their lives will always be intertwined.
“It feels really cool to be connected to someone like that forever and know I could help him out and help his family, and they’re all very thankful for that,” Rogotzke said.