LARAMIE (AP) — Natalie Meisler wasn’t making any sense.
The veteran journalist was talking on the phone with Tim Harkins, the head of media relations for University of Wyoming athletics.
They had chatted for several minutes before Meisler, who was penning a Mountain West football preview for Lindy’s Magazine, asked him to hold.
When Meisler returned, Harkins couldn’t understand her. He thought the phone connection was shoddy.
“Natalie, I am having trouble hearing you,” Harkins told her.
But it wasn’t the phone. It was Meisler.
“She was making sound,” Harkins said, “but she couldn’t form any words.”
Harkins had heard this before. When he was home one summer during his college years, his father, Hal, suffered a stroke in the middle of the night.
“After a minute or so, it kind of struck me what was happening,” Harkins tells the Casper Star-Tribune.
His instincts may have saved Meisler’s life.
Harkins stormed over to the office of Amy Dambro, another media relations staffer at Wyoming. He started pointing furiously at her computer — “I was just like, ‘What are we doing!?'” Dambro said — before the words escaped his mouth.
They needed to find Meisler’s address and get her help. And fast. Laramie is about 100 miles from Boulder.
Only, they didn’t have Meisler’s Boulder, Colo., home address on hand. But they knew of someone who might.
Dambro dialed up Colorado State University senior associate athletic director Gary Ozzello. He had an extensive history with Meisler, a former sportswriter with the Denver Post.
Ozzello called Dambro back with Meisler’s address and she phoned the Boulder Police Department. Harkins told the dispatcher of his hunch, while Dambro tried to communicate with Meisler on his cellphone.
“We kept saying, ‘Natalie hang in there. … The ambulance is coming to get you!'” Dambro said. “She wasn’t talking at that point.”
But there were signs she was alive: Dambro could hear Meisler breathing and she gurgled sounds when her named was called.
Dambro was still on Harkins’ phone when emergency crews arrived. When they knocked on the door, Dambro heard the thumps — that confirmed they had found the right house.
“I told Tim, and they got in there,” Dambro said.
One of the responders found Meisler’s cellphone and hung it up. Neither Harkins nor Dambro can recall how long the crisis lasted, only that the call to Meisler was made at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday.
“What was a long time,” Dambro said, “didn’t feel like a long time.”
Later Wednesday, Harkins heard that Meisler was improved in the ICU. Yahoo Sports!, which first reported the story, wrote that doctors had found a blood clot, which was the source of the stroke.
Meanwhile, Meisler has many in Laramie rooting for her recovery.
“I am hoping she is OK. I know she lives alone and works from home, and I know how lucky she was to be talking to Tim,” Dambro said, “because she could have been there a lot longer.”
Harkins is left with those thoughts, too.
What if he called Meisler five minutes later? What if he hadn’t lived through those experiences with his father as a young man? What if Ozzello wasn’t in his office when Dambro called?
It can appear fated.
“It’s like when you have a friend get hurt or killed,” Harkins said, “and you wonder if that really did happen.”
But in looking back on the rescue, Harkins had another word to describe it all — luck.