Reserve deputy saves Otsego man’s life at Otsego Health & Fitness
When Otsego resident Floyd Eshbaugh stopped breathing at the gym last month, off-duty Allegan County Reserve Deputy Mike Keeler was there for him.
Eshbaugh, 58, had just changed after his workout at Otsego Health & Fitness on Feb. 3, 9:30 p.m., ready to head to work, when he collapsed. He has Type I diabetes and recalled feeling as though his sugar levels were high.
He doesn’t remember the next 10 days or so.
“I’ve seen the video,” Eshbaugh said. “I wish I hadn’t. I guess I died for 14 or 15 minutes.”
The video showed that owner Michelle Kamp shouted for help from Keeler who had started his workout following his monthly training with the reserve force. He ran over from his elliptical, called 911 and began chest compressions after Eschbaugh stopped breathing. He would learn later he was in cardiac arrest.
Kamp retrieved the automated external defibrillator, Keeler set it up and it began to administer shocks to restart Eshbaugh’s heart.
Plainwell EMS and other first responders quickly arrived to take over and took Eschbaugh to the hospital. He spent the next couple days in a coma. He now has a pacemaker and came home Feb. 14.
A complication from his treatment triggered a stroke, so he has worsening vision in his left eye—but he knows he’s lucky to have as much brain function and bodily control as he does. He’s restricted to light activity and no driving, but can walk unassisted.
“They were telling my wife they didn’t know what I was going to be like because I was out so long,” Eshbaugh said. “And usually you lose body functions after a stroke.”
“They said I’m a miracle case,” he said, “basically because of Mike. If he wouldn’t have done what he did, I probably would have died.”
Eshbaugh said he had smoked since he was young, averaging a pack every day. He grew up in Otsego, transferring between Otsego, Plainwell and Martin schools. He did not graduate, but earned his high school diploma while serving in the U.S. Army.
He is an assistant machine operator at Graphic Packaging in Kalamazoo. He was honorably discharged after eight years in 1988 as an E4 specialist having worked as an electrician/mechanic on the 19 Hercules missile system. He began working for Plainwell Paper and then later for Perrigo and Haworth.
He and his wife Angelina have three children, Sheilla, Nicoletta and Nella and four grandchildren. Echbaugh said his daughters gifted Keeler with a gift certificate, but he had donated that to the gym.
Eshbaugh said it was overwhelming to think about Keeler’s actions.
“Why was I so lucky? I know Mike helped me, but I also think somebody was looking out for me, somebody guided me through it.
“I owe Mike my life. I guess I love him like a brother; he was there for me. He knew exactly what to do.”
Nicoletta Sartori, who now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 2-year-old, said she was overcome with emotion after they flew to Michigan to see her father.
The 2005 Martin High School graduate said, “I had to sit down, the emotions just overcame me. He was in intensive care. There were so many machines and tubes hooked up to him. It was shocking.
“Nothing prepares you for that call; the ‘Hey I almost lost my dad.’”
It was her first trip home since moving out West four years ago.
“If nothing else, I want to tell people about the importance of knowing CPR,” Sartori said. “If not for him being there and if Michelle hadn’t have had a working AED—the fast response of everyone involved, those are the reasons he’s alive.
“Mike Keeler is an angel sent down from heaven. I’m so grateful for him and the other first responders. Thank you isn’t enough.”
Keeler said, “It’s a humbling experience to contribute to somebody’s wellbeing. The reward is seeing him with his family as he recovers.”
The manager of construction facilities at Advia Credit Union, he credits his CPR training as well as that he underwent as a reserve deputy that helped him act decisively. He joined the reserves three years ago at the urging of his father, Plainwell Mayor Brad Keeler, who also served several years as a reserve deputy.
“I’ve been trained and certified for CPR going on since 2001,” Mike Keeler, 39, said.
Keeler lives with his wife Aubrey and young twin daughters Ava and Ana. A 2001 Martin High School graduate, he moved to Otsego in 2001.
He said his father had urged him to sign up with him two years earlier, but his daughters were still quite young.
“So, I’d hear lots of good things about it from my dad, the training they’d go through,” Mike Keeler said. “And I’d been interested in being a police officer since I was a little kid. My dream job is to be a DNR officer, but that didn’t happen to work out.
“This gives me a way to dabble in it and give back to the community.”
The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office offers a reserves academy occasionally. It requires six months of training during the evenings as well as a field training program. Those who sign up invest in some of the equipment.
Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker said the reserves expand the reach of the department.
“We look at it as, without them, there would be many services we provide that we just could not otherwise offer,” he said. “It could be things like having someone on-hand at high school sporting events.
“We don’t have those resources to devote to that service. Our road patrol deputies have to respond to calls for service around the county and that’s a limited resource.”
So in addition to working security for large events such as the Allegan County Fair, reserve deputies can provide a second person in a road patrol vehicle during busy periods.
“That minimizes movement of the patrols in the county, because we don’t always have to send a backup unit,” Baker said. “It makes the unit itself more efficient.”
Working security does earn the reserves pay, but they volunteer their time to commit to monthly training and other efforts.
He said in 2018, 2,192 of the department’s reserve deputy 7,327 hours were volunteered.
Baker said the next reserves academy will be this spring to bolster a somewhat low current roster of 27. Following a thorough background check, it teaches criminal law, defensive tactics, firearms, traffic control and the procedures to follow as a second officer in a patrol unit.
Even for those who don’t achieve the qualification benchmarks in the training, there are usually other areas the volunteers can serve.
Baker said the department also recruits out of the reserves, for those willing to invest the time in a police academy.
“We have people of a variety of ages who pursue this,” Baker said. “Some are younger and looking to this as a career and others are maybe looking to just give back to their community after their career.”
He said Keeler would be recognized for his quick action later this year at a Plainwell city council meeting.
Keeler said, “I enjoy doing it so much. It’s humbling to go through and interact with the people in this profession.”
As for Eshbaugh, Keeler said he tries to stay in touch with him.
“He’s a strong guy. He’s going to pull through and get back on his feet,” he said, noting he’s looking forward to seeing him back in the gym. “The world gets really small when something like this happens.”
Editor's note: This story has been edited from how it appeared in print this week to reflect the correct name of the gym. The Allegan County News regrets the error.