FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine – A local man found out just how important family ties are when he suffered a near-fatal heart attack and the first person on the scene to offer assistance was his big sister.
“My daughter, Paula (Kirkland), saved my son’s life,” said their mother, Bernadette Christensen.
On Dec. 11 Tim Bushey, 43, who has suffered with Parkinson’s disease for 15 years, was home alone when he was stricken with a heart attack. According to Christensen, Bushey collapsed to the floor, where he remained until help arrived.
“Tim suffered a massive heart attack. When he fell, one arm got caught under a cupboard while the other was pinned beneath him. He couldn’t move to call for help,” said Christensen.
Kirkland, 49, a social worker who makes house calls to check on clients, was notified that her mother had been unable to reach Bushey by phone.
“Because of the Parkinson’s, Tim has been unable to work for a number of years. He’s one of Paula’s regular clients. She checks in on him often. I contacted her and let her know I couldn’t reach Tim,” Christensen said. “I have one other son, Tom, who lives in Masardis. There was no way he could have gotten here in time to help.”
Kirkland went to Bushey’s trailer. Finding the door locked, she kicked in the door to gain access, according to her mother.
“When she found him, he was barely alive. He’d been lying on the floor for over two hours,” continued Christensen, her voice breaking as she recalled the incident.
Kirkland called an ambulance and Bushey was transported to The Aroostook Medical Center. Bushey and Kirkland were both flown to Eastern Maine Medical Center a short time later where Bushey received treatment.
“Because his arm was pinned under him for so long, it caused toxicity in his blood. He was taken to EMMC on Dec. 11 and was expected to be there for quite some time,” said Christensen. “He also experienced problems with liver and kidney function. He underwent dialysis for a time.”
Not wanting to leave her brother, according to Christensen, Kirkland spoke with her employer and, under the Family Medical Leave Act, opted to take time off to be with Bushey while he underwent therapy.
“She didn’t want to leave his side. Paula traveled to EMMC to be with Tim and has helped him with therapy, has fed him and generally takes care of him when nurses aren’t available. She’s taken time off from work and hasn’t had any income in the meantime,” said Christensen.
Christensen is concerned for her children, since both have faced issues due to the circumstances.
“Paula went without income to be with Tim. That’s not easy when you basically live from paycheck to paycheck. And Tim needed a wheelchair ramp installed to access his home. Fortunately, Alpha ONE stepped in to construct the ramp for him,” said Christensen.
Bushey returned home a little over a week ago, although he still needs assistance on a daily basis – assistance provided by a doting big sister.
“Tim still has his sister working for him daily, with no pay. He can’t walk yet and only has use of one arm. We’re hoping he’ll walk again some day but we aren’t sure if he’ll ever have use of one arm. He’s still pretty sick,” said Christensen.
Kirkland may have ‘just been helping her brother,’ according to Christensen, but her actions mean so much more to the mother of three.
“They’re my kids and always will be. I care about all three. But what Paula did is remarkable. She deserves recognition for what she did. To me, she’s a real hero,” said Christensen.
Donation jars have been placed in Fort Fairfield businesses for anyone wishing to contribute toward Bushey’s medical bills. Donations can also be sent to Christensen at 5 Lincoln Street, Fort Fairfield, ME 04742.