Against All Odds: Michael’s Story


It was just a normal day for 20-year-old Michael Sparks. 

Michael and his two brothers went to play pickup basketball at the gym on Baraga Street in Marquette. Nothing was out of the ordinary. 

Nobody knew the pickup game was about to take a turn for the worse.

“I was guarding him and he just collapsed,” said Michael’s brother, Andrew. “At first, we thought he was joking around. 

Everyone in the gym quickly realized the severity of the situation. Michael collapsed so suddenly that he knocked out both of his front teeth on the gym floor. A friend called 911 immediately. 

A Marquette County officer was the first on the scene. The UPHS EMS team and firefighters arrived moments later. “Michael was completely unresponsive. He was pale. He had slow, irregular breathing. He had no pulse,” said Tom Flynn, veteran Paramedic for UPHS – Marquette. 

Michael was in full cardiac arrest. Almost unheard of for a 20-year-old.    

The team started CPR right on the gym floor. Followed by an electric shock. “The shock brought him back to life. His blood pressure started to get back to normal and everything started to fall into place,” said Flynn. “If we weren’t able to get to the scene so quickly, we could be talking about a completely different outcome for this young man.”

The 911 call came in at 12:43 p.m. Only a few blocks away, the EMS team arrived at 12:44 p.m. By 12:47, the team of firefighters, police and EMS had a heartbeat.

It was four minutes that seemed like an eternity for Michael’s brothers and bystanders. “I’m so grateful that the team was able to save my brother,” said Andrew. “Things could have turned out very differently.”

Michael was quickly taken by ambulance to UP Health System – Marquette’s Emergency Department, where staff awaited his arrival in the ambulance bin.

Tina Graci, one of the RNs who cared for Michael on his arrival, said “Michael had a number of symptoms which had us very worried when he first arrived. There were a lot of complex things going on. Both Dr. Sturla and I went with him to his CT, which is very rare. A patient is very sick for that to happen.” 

Michael spent seven days at the hospital. Three of those days were in the Intensive Care Unit. On the third day, after being stabilized, Michael was moved to the 7th floor to continue his recovery. Dr. Michael Mellana, electrophysiologist, placed an ICD (defibrillator) in Michael to help protect against future cardiac events. He was discharged the following day.

“It’s hard to put into words how appreciative I am for all these amazing people,” said Michael. “I feel great. I’m so happy to be home with my family and friends.”

All said, more than 60 individuals helped bring Michael back to life. 

Dr. Amadeo Sturla noted, “If it weren’t for the fast action of the first responders, the firefighters who were there, this great outcome wouldn’t have been possible.” Just one month before, local firefighters underwent specialized EMS training to prepare them for exactly these types of critical situations.

Above, Michael Sparks meets staff at UP Health System – Marquette who helped to save his life. Pictured from left to right are Tina, RN, Michael, Stephanie, RN, and Christie, Clinic Manager, ED.

Days later, Michael visited UP Health System – Marquette to meet the hospital staff who helped save his life, saying “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you all.”

Nurse Tina and Michael hugged just before saying goodbye. 

We must recognize and thank the local firefighters, police, EMS, nurses, doctors, and medical staff who came together for Michael, and who so often go above and beyond to make a difference in our lives.

It was the commitment of many people – a community of dedicated professionals, working together – that has let a young man continue his life’s story. 

Pictured here are a number of those who helped to save Michael’s life. Pictured from Left to Right: Detective Chris Aldrich, Captain Mike Laurila, Tina Graci, RN/Emergency, Chief Blake Rieboldt, Megan Boyer, Unit Clerk/ICU, Paramedic Tom Flynn, Tina Ellison, RN/ICU, Kirk Vogler, Firefighter/Paramedic, Mike Murvich, RN/ICU, David Stowe, Firefighter/Paramedic, Matt Jackson, Firefighter/Paramedic, Jason Doney, RN/ICU

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