Mike's Life Savers

Several tragic incidents in Mike's life nearly resulted in his death.   One, in early life, almost proved fatal;  another would have been if not for a bystander's actions:

Vinnie Hicks:

In 1948, Mike was attending a summer day camp along the Winnetka beachfront.   He was apparently "horsing around" with one of the camp's counselors, out on the end of a long pier extending from the beach out into Lake Michigan.   The man, whose name isn't known, got annoyed with Mike's actions, picked him up, and dropped him off the side of the pier.

Mike couldn't swim, he started flailing and sinking in the water, which was well over his head.   The Life Guard on duty, a woman named Vinnie Hicks, dove in as he was sinking for the 3rd time and pulled him out, clearly saving his life.   No doubt she gave Mike first aid (he doesn't recall this), as well.

To this day, Mike remembers most of this incident, especially Vinnie's name.

The next day, Mike's father took him back to that beach and took him into the water (to "get back on the horse") - to assure Mike didn't develop a fear of water.   Later that summer, his parents enrolled Mike in a formal swimming instruction program at the famed New Trier High School in Winnetka (which he later attended).

Still unknown is why this summer day camp didn't know that Mike couldn't swim, as well as why no legal action was taken against the camp or the counselor...

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Nancy Smirbach:

On her way home from work one Saturday, Nancy Smirbach was stopped by an accident ahead of her.   The car in front of her stopped suddenly after hitting a bicyclist in a crosswalk.   Cars in both directions stopped, but no one was doing anything about the man lying in the middle of the street.   The year was in 1988, when almost nobody had cell phones.   She got out of her car and ran back to a nearby shopping center to find help.   She found a pay phone and called 911.

The story doesn't end there: by amazing coincidence, she happened to work at Barrows Furniture.   Nancy knew Libby fairly well, because she, too, was a designer, working in the commercial division.   When Libby returned to work some days later, talk around the store made Nancy realize that she was the "Good Samaritan" who called for help.   She had never met Mike, and didn't know at the time that he was the accident victim.

Months later, when Mike had sufficiently recovered to go out in public with Libby, they were at a party with some of her associates; Libby introduced him to Nancy.   She explained that Nancy was the one who called 911; Mike broke down, overcome with emotion and gratitude.   One of the manifestations of his head injury was amplified emotions, and this was becoming common for Mike, as he tried to deal with his near-death experience.   It took some years for Mike to handle situations without emotion.

Nancy Smirbach almost certainly saved Mike's life by calling 911.

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Last Updated: June 22, 2017