WILLCOX — Winter visitors Marshall and Linda Dubaldo were just finishing a hike at Fort Bowie on March 14, about a mile and a quarter from their car in the parking lot, when Marshall didn’t feel right.
“It turns out I had a TIA, fell and broke my ankle,” he said.
A TIA is a transient ischemic attack, known colloquially as a “ministroke.” A temporary artery blockage occurs in the brain, producing strokelike symptoms, including dizziness and loss of coordination.
Linda tried to call 9-1-1 but found there was no cell signal, so she set off down the trail hoping to complete the call.
“I wasn’t scared about getting out,” Marshall said, “although I thought I might have to crawl out. I crawled bout 15 feet and realized I couldn’t do it.”
Linda was eventually able to get a signal and reach the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, which mobilized the Search and Rescue team. Sgt. David Noland, with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and search and rescue coordinator, was the first to arrive, bringing blankets to protect Marshall from the rapidly dropping temperatures.
Eventually, more Search and Rescue team members arrived and were able to get Marshall onto a gurney, which they used to get him to the trailhead parking area, carefully making their way down the narrow and rocky trail. A waiting ambulance took the Dubaldos to Northern Cochise Community Hospital, where Dr. Lew Allen recognized that Marshall experienced a neurological issue. He immediately called for a helicopter to transport him to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson.
He was diagnosed as having suffered a transient ischemic attack, and he had to undergo surgery for his ankle, which was broken in three places. The result was insertion of a metal plate on one side of the ankle, secured with four to six screws.
“It was an amazing experience, and these (Search and Rescue) people need to be honored. This happened at 4 p.m., and they stayed with us for six hours,” Linda said. “These people are volunteers, and they put themselves at risk to help others; this is humanity at its best.”
“Linda and I are so grateful to all of the first responders, paramedics, helicopter pilots, ambulance people, doctors and staff at both Wilcox Hospital and Tucson’s St. Joe’s,” Marshall said. “I’m now recovering in Tucson, and all is going well. We will be heading back to the Northeast on April 3.”