Judy Putnam, Lansing State Journal Published 8:48 p.m. ET July 16, 2019 | Updated 5:26 p.m. ET July 17, 2019
EAST LANSING – A group of four women running along a trail on Michigan State University’s campus Saturday morning heard a plea for help coming from a dense thicket.
“We just heard this cry for help. ‘I need help! I need help!’ It just stopped us dead in our tracks,” said Cindy Eiseler, one of the four runners and the program director of Playmakers Fitness Foundation.
Eiseler and the three others paused along the trail, wondering whether they heard it correctly.
“Then we heard it again, somebody calling,” she said.
They couldn’t see the person pleading for help, she said. They were on a paved trail on the western edge of Michigan State University’s campus.
Eiseler yelled from the trail, offering to call 911. The women hesitated to go into the woods, she said, not sure whether the call was legitimate or a trap to lure them in.
It turns out, it was real.
A 37-year-old man was found impaled on a stump around 8 a.m. Saturday after he fell from a tree about 6 p.m. Friday, said Michigan State University Police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor.
She declined to release the man’s name or his reason for being in the tree. The man was taken to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.
“It’s a good thing they were running,” McGlothian-Taylor said.
Eiseler’s group flagged down runner Chris Smith and three others running the trail as they waited for emergency responders. Eiseler told them the man’s voice was getting weaker, so Smith and another runner went into the woods to find him.
Smith said his friend started calling out to locate the wounded man. He responded but his voice sounded more like a cat, Smith said.
They found him about 40 yards in from the gate into the woods. A mountain bike, headphones and water bottle were about 20 yards in from the gate.
“Basically a chunk of tree was sticking through his shoulder. He was laying on his stomach. We were trying to figure out what we could do to help,” he said.
The man spent Friday night shirtless and laying facedown, unable to move. Smith’s friend asked him why he was in the tree.
“Enjoying nature,” was his response.
They alerted Eiseler’s group that there was a man in serious trouble. Another runner in Smith’s group, Victoria Mikko, a medical assistant, came in to help support him until responders arrived.
Mikko kneeled next to the man and realized he had pulled himself off the stump at some point. She described the shard of wood as about 2 inches in diameter and a foot high.
“He was pretty rough upped. He had a big hole in his arm. You could see the bone,” she said. “He also had an injury to the chest and lots of scrapes and bumps.”
The man told Mikko that he had passed out. She said that if he nicked an artery, he would have bled to death.
“I knew if he was out there another night, he would not have survived,” Mikko said.
Smith said he started clearing a path for emergency responders while Mikko tended to him.
Smith’s running group, the Lansing chapter of Team Red, White and Blue, a veteran’s support group, had passed the area earlier as they went on a run. His group of four was on its way back when they stopped to help.
Smith, a database administrator,, said that they didn’t hear the man when they ran by earlier that morning. He credited Eiseler’s group with saving the man’s life.
“He was in bad shape,” he said. “If they hadn’t called 911, I honestly believe he would have died back there.”
Smith said another member of his running group went to visit the man at Sparrow and took him a shoe he had left in the woods. The running group plans to keep tabs on him as he heals, Smith said.
John Foren, a Sparrow spokesman, said the man, who had fractures, is expected to recover.
Meanwhile, Eiseler didn’t want to take too much credit for saving the man. Her group went out for a long run, leaving Michigan Athletic Club at 6 a.m. They were on their way back when they heard the cries for help.
“I just feel we were at the right place at the right time,” Eisler said. “Being so early in the morning, there was no traffic. He probably heard us talking as we were running along the sidewalk trail. I’m sure he probably heard us and yelled out.”
Follow Judy Putnam on Twitter @judyputnam.
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