Last month, at the age of 86, Floyd Veibell of Cornish got his second chance at life in the middle of a bench trial inside the 1st District Courthouse in Logan after he appeared to suffer a stroke.
“I went and sat down and things started going screwy in my head — the next thing I know I was headed out on a stretcher to the ambulance,” he said Wednesday.
Last spring, Veibell filed a small claims suit against Lee and Betty Jo Black, also of Cornish, in the wake of a dispute over a farming lease, and the matter was set for a Jan. 17 bench trial in front of Judge Kevin Allen.
It was a Thursday morning, and there were few people in the courtroom that day. The trial started just after 9 a.m. and proceeded as these things usually do, with each side making opening arguments before the first witness was called to the stand.
Veibell, who chose to represent himself, allegedly questioned each of the witnesses throughout the morning in an accusatory manner, even calling them liars.
The Blacks’ daughter, Brooke Allsop of Centerville, was one of the witnesses, and she said Veibell seemed agitated and flustered as he repeatedly shuffled his papers back and forth.
Nearly two hours later, while Betty Jo was on the witness stand, Allsop said she remembers him loudly saying, “That’s a lie!”
Veibell shook his head and with a dismissive wave of his hand, he said he had no further questions for the woman before he returned to his seat, where he sat with his head in his hands.
“I am not a liar,” Betty Jo said, before she was excused from the witness stand.
Then, just as the Blacks’ attorney stood and approached the podium to make his argument in the case, Veibell slumped farther over the table.
When the court bailiff checked on him to make sure he was OK, Veibell started seizing, setting off a flurry of activity that saved his life.
The bailiff lowered Veibell to the floor as Allen instructed his clerk to call 911, and Allsop, a trauma nurse, handed her baby off to her mother, a series of events that were all captured on courthouse security videos.
Allsop can be heard asking Veibell over and over if he was OK, but he was unresponsive.
“He’s got a pulse; we’re doing OK,” she said. But seconds later, his pulse was gone, and Allsop started CPR, rhythmically counting with each compression. She performed chest compressions for almost a minute before Allen took over.
“It was so nice having Judge Allen there,” she said. “He was my guardian angel in that moment.”
Allen said as he took a turn with CPR the man was showing all signs of death. His lips were blue; his pupils were fixed and dilated; his body movements were involuntary.
Additional court bailiffs arrived with an automated external defibrillator (AED). Allsop said she helped them set it up and turned it on. As the machine was analyzing, Veibell started to come around, she said.
Veibell had the slightest pulse when emergency medical personnel arrived on scene moments later, although he remained unresponsive at first — Allsop speculated he had had a stroke.
As Veibell became more and more responsive, paramedics were able to assist him to the stretcher, and he was transported to Logan Regional Hospital for evaluation and treatment.
“I really don’t know what happened,” he said. “I just keeled over, and the next thing I know I was on my way to the ambulance.”
Veibell said when he became aware of what had happened, his first thought was for his wife of 58 years.
“I wondered if I would live long enough to take care of her,” he said.
Veibell said he apparently had some kind of aneurysm. He has been hospitalized one other time since then but is recovering, slower than he would like.
“They won’t let me go out and shovel the snow,” he said.
After it was all over, Allsop said it has brought her peace to know that he was OK — even if he had berated her and her family during the trial.
“When a life is in the balance nothing else matters,” she said.