“Dr. Jordan, I think you’re having a stroke,” sophomore Luke Vayder told professor of English Michael Jordan during a Great Books class in Kendall Hall on the morning of Sept. 2.
Vayder had noticed Jordan was slurring his speech, a symptom of a stroke. He checked the time: It was 9:25 a.m.
Vayder’s grasp on the situation and insight into the problem impressed Jordan.
“It was evident he recognized that it was a mini-stroke right away,” Jordan said. “I said, ‘What are you, pre-med?’”
As a licensed emergency medical technician, Vayder has been taught how to recognize and properly respond to such kinds of medical emergencies.
“Depending on what kind of stroke a person experiences, there’s a certain window for giving the right type of medication,” Vayder said. “The time that the onset symptoms start — that’s the most important thing to note.”
Vayder earned his license from the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College two weeks after his 18th birthday — the youngest age at which EMT licensing is allowed in his home state of Wisconsin. As a result, Vayder could jump into action the minute he observed Jordan’s speech troubles and drooping lip.
Vayder said he then instructed Jordan to smile. When Jordan’s smile only half-formed, Vayder said, “I think you need to go to the hospital now,” to which Jordan immediately agreed.
While several of the other students in the class scrambled to call 911, Jordan decided he did not want to go to the hospital by ambulance. Vayder, along with sophomores Bennet Nichols and Ben Hanson, hurried to help Jordan.
While Jordan called his wife and told her what was happening, Hanson rushed back to the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house and hopped in his 2014 black BMW. He picked up Jordan from the Lane parking lot and took him to the Hillsdale Hospital.
“I decided it would be best to leave Luke with Dr. Jordan in the back seat since he had the most medical training,” Hanson said.
They arrived at the hospital within 20 minutes of Jordan first showing symptoms. Upon arriving at the ER, Vayder explained the situation to the triage nurse and reported all of Jordan’s vitals.
“The hospital staff said the students were really on the ball,” Jordan said. “They thought well of the Hillsdale students who were taking care of me.”
Following the incident, Jordan took the week off to recover. He returned to class on Wednesday, healthy and ready to teach.
Vayder attributed his recognition of the stroke and his quick response to his experience as an EMT. Vayder has seen the same stroke symptoms Jordan exhibited in other patients he has helped while working in an emergency room or on an ambulance, which he still does back home.
Jordan’s specific condition, a transient ischemic attack, is caused by plaque in the brain, which makes an artery shrink. When the artery contracts, there is nowhere for the blood to go, and it causes a stroke, Vayder explained.
In fact, Vayder said he has “always wanted to be a doctor,” and couldn’t see himself doing anything other than medicine as a career. His work as an EMT, which he began immediately upon earning his license, has reinforced these goals all the more.
“I love it. It’s exciting. You get to help people,” Vayder said.
Shortly after starting work as an EMT, Vayder also began working on his local ambulance. While most of the calls Vayder responds to are general, mild emergencies — such as helping elderly people up off a bathroom floor — the job also frequently places him in critical situations.
“You get to be there at people’s very worst, so you’re usually the person showing up when it’s that person’s last option,” he said. “You never know where you get to go.”
Vayder said his dad inspired him to go into medicine from a very young age. Vayder’s dad is a doctor, and he is the reason Vayder became an EMT before his senior year of high school.
The two have even had the chance to work together. They did so on one of the most memorable nights on the job for Vayder — his first time “bringing someone back from the dead.”
In the spring of 2019, a woman came into the ER in full cardiac arrest. The medical team of which Vayder was a part was able to revive her, and she ultimately made a full recovery.
Vayder said he has found his education at Hillsdale has been crucial in helping him reach his goal of becoming a doctor. Deciding between a chemistry or biochemistry major, Vayder hopes to grow in the scientific knowledge that will help him in medical school.
At the same time, Hillsdale has also led him to “fall in love with the liberal arts,” he said.
“The curriculum here is not only preparing me to be a scientist, but also to be the right kind of human being to take care of sick people,” Vayder said.