In late June, Gary Miller had a heart attack. That came just months after he lost his wife to cancer.
Yet, somehow, things got worse.
Last week, the 58-year-old welder, pipefitter and Marine Corps veteran had triple-bypass heart surgery. While the stitches in his chest were still sore, the air conditioning in his house went out.
“It seemed like it all happened at once,” Miller said.
There was no way a guy trying to recover from a heart attack and subsequent operation could live in his non-air conditioned house in Edgemoor, in northeastern Chester County just south of Rock Hill, in the middle of summer with temperatures approaching 100 degrees.
For people with chronic health problems, temperatures in the high 90s or 100s – as are expected through next week – could be dangerous or even fatal. In South Carolina last year, 11 people died from heat-related causes. Earlier this month, a Columbia man died July 5 in a home with no air conditioning.
Yet Gary Miller, who has worked with his hands all his life and gave his country four years of service, knows a new air conditioning system would cost a lot more than a guy trying to survive a heart attack can afford.
“I wasn’t sure how I could handle the expense,” Miller said. “I had my heart attack – I can’t go back to work until I get better.”
Chad Adams, a big guy with a bigger heart, heard about Miller’s situation. Adams saw that Miller’s son had started a GoFundMe page. Adams owns American Air Heating & Cooling in Rock Hill. He’s the big, bald guy with the TV commercials featuring, among other wacky stunts, Hugo the Hornet from the Charlotte Hornets basketball team.
Adams’ business is called American Air for a reason. He has the American flag on all his stuff for a reason.
“Here this guy is in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, and he’s veteran,” Adams said. “No way can I let this guy try to deal with all that when it’s 95 degrees, maybe 100 degrees. That night, I couldn’t sleep.
“I’m cool in my house, and there is a guy like this burning up in his house? No way. I had to do something.”
Adams did more than something.
He went to Miller’s house and inspected the air conditioner. He found the unit was at least 20 years old. The compressor was shot, Adams said. Like his heart, Miller’s air conditioner needed more than minor repairs.
Adams did not walk away. He installed temporary units to get Miller through the weekend; then, on Tuesday, he went to Miller’s house with his crew and installed a brand new system. It took half a day during the busiest time of the year for his business, but it got done.
The thermostat inside Miller’s house now reads 72 degrees. Miller had always tried to look out for others, be it welding for people, cutting up deer and meat with his father for people, other favors.
“I was raised, you help somebody and you don’t ask for nothing,” Miller said. “You treat people good. You don’t do it for anything. You do it because it’s right.”
And when Miller needed somebody, Adams rolled up to his house in a truck with a crew and an air conditioning system.
“Here comes this guy, Chad, I never met him before in my life, and he does this,” Miller said. “I thought when he showed up, he was going to do an estimate. He and the guys did everything. Just goes to show, there are some real good people still around this world.
“Chad Adams is sure one of them. I made a friend in this man.”
The unit, the labor, all of it, would cost at least $6,000 in the marketplace. But Adams wouldn’t accept a nickel. There was no bill. There is no invoice.
Adams installed that air conditioner for Gary Miller for free. The explanation took two seconds.
“You help somebody when you can,” Adams said. “It was the right thing to do. So we did it.”
Adams did accept two things in exchange for the good deed. Before he and his crew left, they accepted a firm Marine Corps handshake – and a hug.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat causes about 400 deaths each year in the U.S. Among those most at risk from heat-related illness are the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, homebound people and children under 5. South Carolina saw 11 heat-related deaths in 2015, according to DHEC.
What are the symptoms?
▪ The signs of heat cramps are painful muscle spasms, often in the legs or abdomen.
▪ With heat exhaustion, the skin might feel cool and clammy or moist and might be pale or appear flushed. You also might get a headache, nausea, or feel weak and dizzy.
▪ The signs of heat stroke are red, hot, dry skin and confusion or loss of consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing. The heat stroke victim has lost the ability to sweat, which is why the skin will be hot and dry.
What should you do?
▪ The very first thing is to get out of the heat, even if it is just going to a shady spot.
▪ Apply cool, wet towels and drink cool water.
▪ If you reach the symptoms of heat stroke, call 911 right away.
What can be done to prevent heat-related illnesses?
All heat-related deaths are preventable. Staying in an air-conditioned area is the best answer. When you can’t do that, you can:
▪ Drink plenty of water – 2-4 glasses of at least 16 ounces of cool fluids every hour. Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
▪ Avoid strenuous activity.
▪ Take frequent cool showers or baths.
▪ Wear lightweight, light-colored clothes.
▪ Limit sun exposure.
▪ Never leave children or pets in a parked car.
SOURCE: S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control