Thankful: Benefis Teams Give Billings Man a Second Chance After a Freak Infection

Sitting in his car and watching a softball game, Rick Halmes, 71, snored four times, leaned his head back, and died.

“I literally died in the seat of that Subaru,” he said.  

Two bystanders saw what was happening and pulled Rick from his car, while his wife, Janet Schuh, called friends Staci Griffin, an operations specialist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and Shane Griffin, RT, who she remembered were also at the softball game. 

“Shane said, ‘Let’s go,’ and we ran around the sports complex,” Staci said. “We thought Rick was having a heart attack.”

Rick was blue and his face was distorted when Shane arrived at his side. His heart was stopped; he wasn’t breathing.


Shane took over CPR and got a breathing tube down Rick’s throat. He rode to the hospital on Rick, and while he broke his sternum and 14 ribs, Shane kept Rick’s body from permanent damage or death from oxygen deprivation.

In 18 minutes, the team shocked Rick’s heart four times – then 12 times in 12 hours. 

The Emergency Department, including Housekeeping, scrambled to prepare the trauma room for Rick during his ambulance ride. When he arrived, all hands were on deck. 

Everyone “went to work on him like he was one of their own family,” Staci said. “You would never have guessed he wasn’t the only patient in the hospital.”

An incredible level of skill and teamwork proved the difference. The right people came together, pulled out all the stops, and saved Rick’s life. 

“For them to keep working on him – amazing,” said Rick’s wife, Janet.

Rick spent 10 days in the Intensive Care Unit and five days in a regular hospital room.

Rick had a procedure in his throat done in Billings; a puncture in his throat led to sepsis. Septic shock stopped his heart. A cardiologist told Rick he had about a 3% chance of survival if this had happened at the hospital. To survive with his heart stopping at a softball game put his odds at 1% or less.


“How hard they worked on him here made all the difference. Most hospitals would have said, ‘That’s a wrap,’” Janet said. “The nurses and everyone knew what he’d been through, and they were extremely kind to us.”

A nurse brought Rick back to life his first night, and she didn’t leave his room for the first 12 hours of his stay, until he’d stabilized. 

A respiratory therapist figured out Rich had claustrophobia and adjusted the protocol to put him at ease. The whole team was sensitive to his needs.

The first thing Rick registered when he woke up was the cords and hoses. 

Rick’s kidney quit along with his heart, and he needed dialysis until his kidney could get going again (he’d donated the other). 

Speech, physical, and occupational therapists showed tremendous patience as he struggled to process all that was happening. 

Among the long list of those who contributed to Rick’s experience was the man who delivered his meals to the fourth floor.

“He would make you feel so good,” Rick said.  


“The concern, the professional level, and the personal attention – I don’t know how it could have been any better,” he said. “You all saved my life.” 

Those who helped him walk for the first time were mindful of the distance he could handle and still encouraged him to push himself just enough. 

“They were trying to meet me where I was,” he said. 

“There were a lot of caring people,” Janet added. 

Two weeks after he arrived in the ED in an ambulance, Rick walked out of Benefis and into the rest of his life. After eight years, Rick no longer has atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heartbeat, thanks to his treatment here, and he is taking a third of the medications he used before.

Rick is not taking for granted his “bonus” time. His family drew closer, and they make a point to connect more often. Rick figured out video calling so he can watch his grandchildren. 

“I feel so humbled,” Rick said.