Harvey hero reunion: Surgeon rescued by first responder in order to save teen's life

HOUSTON – As the one-year mark since Hurricane Harvey approaches, KPRC 2 is bringing our audience stories of the heroes during the storm.

Two men who haven't seen each other since Harvey are meeting for the first time Tuesday.

One of the men is a pediatric surgeon who was flooded in and needed to get to the hospital to operate on a teenager, and the other was the man who got him there.

As the streets filled with water in the Dickinson area, pediatric surgeon Dr. Stephen Kimmel received an urgent call. He was needed at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center for an emergency surgery. If a teenager was not operated on in the next few hours, he would have lifelong problems.

“I said I can do the surgery but you have to help me get there,” Kimmel said.

He had already tried to get to the hospital by car, but the streets had become too flooded to get there.

That’s when the hospital called the fire department and sent out Kevin Mikulan along with another first responder.

Mikulan and Kimmel were reunited Tuesday for the first time since the storm. They spoke of their harrowing journey back to the hospital, which included a canoe.


“I thought we were going to get a big shiny truck and drive in and they said, 'We're going to run for a while,'” Kimmel said with a laugh. 

“Then we hopped in the truck for a little while until we couldn't drive anymore and then we canoed him until we couldn't canoe anymore,” Mikulan said.

As they reached Highway 517 in their canoe, they had to stick to the middle of the road.

“There were a couple of cars still driving and we had to be careful to not get hit by cars,” Kimmel said. 

Kimmel and Mikulan walked the last half-mile to the hospital in waist-high water. Once Kimmel got to the hospital, he immediately went into the OR to operate on the teenager.

In the meantime, his own home was taking on water.

“I was here in my office,” Kimmel said. “I spent the night and then had to worry about my own family so that was the project for the next day.”

While his family stayed on their second floor, the first floor filled with water. Their cars were totaled and they had to be rescued by the Coast Guard.

All of that was recognized on Tuesday. Both Kimmel and Mikulan received plaques from the hospital for their heroic efforts.

“You touched a young man's life that will be touched forever, and I want to thank you for that,” said Todd Caliva, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center’s CEO. “You're our hero. You're my hero. I know you're that family's hero.”