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Riding the bus twice a lifesaver for Missouri man

Monday, July 6, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY — The last time James Jones had ridden the Liberty Express Metro bus, he was whisked away by paramedics.

Jones stepped back on the bus recently, two weeks later, carrying a box of doughnuts to thank the people inside for helping save his life.

When passengers noticed Jones having a stroke about 6:45 a.m. June 9, it was the second time in less than two years he'd had a medical emergency on the Liberty Express. And it was the second time he went straight from the bus to a hospital.

Jones, of Kansas City, said he's been riding the bus nearly every day since 1998 between Liberty and downtown, where he works as an engineer in the Kansas City Public Works Department.

Because of those years on the bus, his 13-year-old truck is in "mint condition," and he has gotten quick medical attention twice when he most needed it, thanks to fellow passengers.

"I'm a good case for safety in numbers," Jones said.

On Oct. 1, 2007, the bus stopped on Interstate 35 when Jones nearly fainted because of a dangerously low heart rate. A defibrillator at the hospital stabilized his heart.

Connie Scharer of Liberty was sitting in the seat in front of Jones that day. And she was sitting in front of him two weeks ago.

After Scharer heard someone ask whether Jones was all right, she yelled, "No, he's not!" She shouted for the bus driver to call 911, but another passenger had already called.

Jones had gotten on the bus about 15 minutes earlier. He said he couldn't remember when his symptoms started creeping up on him, but by 6:45, he could barely move his arms or talk.

Paramedics got Jones to St. Luke's Northland Hospital by 7:20, in time for him to receive a clot-busting drug that made his symptoms start to disappear almost immediately.

A stroke victim can take the drug intravenously only during the three hours after symptoms begin, said Karin Olds, the neurologist who treated Jones. After three hours, doctors must use more invasive procedures to deliver the drug, if they can at all.

Jones received the drug about 8:30, less than two hours after his symptoms began. By the time he was transferred to St. Luke's Hospital near the Plaza about an hour later, he felt almost as if nothing had happened.

Jones' wife, Judy Jones, said she was grateful to the people on the bus, the paramedics and the staff at St. Luke's.

"It's just like everything happened at the right time with the right people," she said.

His wife made clear to him that he was to stay away from the doughnuts — he needed to keep his heart healthy so they could avoid any more emergencies, on the bus or off.

"We're not going to do this again," she said.


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