91ºF

Surgeon paddles through Harvey floodwater to save teen in nick of time

As the floodwaters recede, the stories of heroes emerge.

One doctor from Clear Lake Regional Medical Center will now be known as the surgeon who paddled to the hospital to help a patient.

At the height of Harvey, Dr. Stephen Kimmel agreed to operate on a patient, before realizing he couldn't get to the hospital.

“I thought I wouldn’t be a help to anyone if I got stuck,” he said.

With the clock ticking, the hospital called his nearby fire department for a rescue.

That's when volunteer first responders Kevin Mikulan and William Zeek came knocking at the door.

“I said we're going to have to run a little bit doc,” Zeek said.

They ran from Dr. Kimmel’s house to the Dickinson Fire Department where they grabbed a canoe.

“Grab the paddles, strapped it down and like okay let's go,” Zeek said. “I was hoping I was going to be able to drive up but it was a river, the whole feeder, everything was a river.”

They paddled by canoe up the feeder to Bay Area Boulevard, right into the hospital. The trip totaled about 12 miles.

“We paddled up the feeder but there was quite a current actually, so we had to get out and pull the canoe a couple times,” Kimmel recalled. “It took us about an hour from the time we left the house to the time we got here.”

Kimmel was on a deadline. If he didn't operate on the teenage patient within six hours of feeling symptoms, his condition could have caused permanent damage to his reproductive system.

“By the time we started it was about five and a half hours. By the time we got started operating, so it's right kind of down to the wire,” Kimmel said.

He gives credit to Zeek and Mikulan for getting him to the hospital after a treacherous commute.

“I had no clue it was that close, I knew there was a time frame we had to get him in but I didn't know it was that close,” Zeek said.

“All glory to God, honestly it is. We couldn't have done it without Him,” Mikulan said.

Kimmel said the patient is doing much better. His journey into the hospital was equally difficult, his ambulance was stuck in floodwaters and he had to wait for another emergency vehicle, while standing outside sedated.

Download the Click2Houston news app in your app store to stay up-to-date with the latest news while you're on the go.

Sign up for KPRC 2 newsletters to get breaking news, sports, entertainment, contests and more delivered straight to your email inbox.