In late March, Trooper Chuck Ross had to take a Highway Patrol recertification class for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Chuck moaned about taking a refresher course. He figured he knew all he needed. He is a guy, and guys complain when they have to go to training – whether the guy is a cop for three years after a career in construction or not.
Just two weeks later, that training saved his son’s life.
The family’s SUV rolled onto Lane Ross – just 6 then – trapping him underneath the front passenger tire at the family’s home in Lesslie.
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The CPR Chuck performed on his son breathed into the lifeless Lane.
“I didn’t have to think; I just acted,” Chuck said last week, just days before Father’s Day.
“I just did it – and I have my boy here because of knowing how to save him.”
‘He’s asleep under the car’
After working a day shift on the roads on April 5, with all the paperwork of that day’s tickets and wrecks still to be done, Chuck came home to Lesslie southeast of Rock Hill to find his wife and kids hungry.
Instead of doing the paperwork first like he does almost every other night, Chuck decided to go out to eat with the family and hustled upstairs to change.
Kathi Ross had the three kids strapped into the car – Lane, the oldest; Paizlei, 3; and Bailei, 18 months old.
A storm was coming. Kathi told her son to get his bike from in front of the car and put it away. She rushed back into the house to get a bag of chips to calm down three hungry kids.
Just seconds later, she heard Paizlei yelling, “Lane needs help! He’s asleep under the car.”
“I helped,” Paizlei recalled, all these weeks later.
The SUV was on top of Lane, who was on top of his bicycle. His legs and most of his midsection were underneath the car, his head and neck sticking out.
“We still don’t know how it happened,” Kathi said of how the vehicle moved. “It just jumped.”
Kathi ran screaming into the house for her husband. Chuck came rushing down the stairs half-dressed.
“I heard the type of yell, her screams, and I just ran as fast as I could,” Ross said. “And there I saw my son underneath the tire.
“His arms were not moving and were turning purple. His mouth and nose were turning dark, almost black. He wasn’t breathing.”
The bicycle tire was sandwiched around Lane like a taco shell – under and over his torso, between his chest and the tire on one side, between his back and the pavement on the other side.
‘Your dad is here for you’
Chuck did not panic.
“The biggest calmness came over me,” he said.
Chuck did what fathers do: He saved his son.
Chuck moved his mother-in-law out of the way, shifted the SUV from park into reverse, and rolled it back a foot or so off Lane’s tiny, motionless body.
He ran around to where Lane lay, checked for a pulse. Finding none, he moved Lane’s head slightly and laid him flat.
Chuck then started to breathe his breath into Lane’s mouth, just as he had been taught in those CPR classes. In between breaths, he spoke calmly to his son.
“Breathe, son; breathe through your nose, pal, just breathe for your daddy. Breathe that good air and hang on and your dad is right here. Your dad is here for you.”
All this was going on as Kathi and others were hysterical. Chuck told them to move away.
“I didn’t want them to see Lane – what I thought might be happening to Lane,” he said.
Seconds seemed like hours. Time slowed to a crawl. Breaths went in, but none came out.
Finally, after a minute or more, Lane’s left eye twitched.
“I knew that he was with me,” Chuck said.
Both eyes twitched as breaths from father to son continued.
“Then he coughed, gasped and started breathing,” Chuck said. “I asked him if he could feel his fingers, his legs, his feet.
“He could even talk then, and knew what day of the week it was – it was a Thursday – and that we had been to the Harlem Globetrotters show two weeks before.”
The storm that day was so bad it had grounded a hospital helicopter, so Lane had to go by ambulance to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
Lane never cried. Not once that day. Not since.
‘Superman’ holding car
Here’s what Lane remembers:
“I was picking up my bike, it took maybe a second, and then the tire was on top of me. I remember telling my sister to go get help. I screamed loud as I could, then I went to sleep.
“But I wasn’t scared.”
After that, Lane can’t remember seeing his father, but he remembers hearing his father telling him to breathe.
“He kept saying breathe through my nose, I remember that,” Lane said. “I was kicking my legs under the car. I thought I could kick and get out. I couldn’t.”
Lane’s lower leg was burned severely after pressing against the motor’s exhaust header pipes sticking out underneath the hot engine.
His pancreas and liver and a kidney were damaged. A lung was pushed in but not punctured.
Somehow, his tiny ribs did not break under the weight of the truck.
“It was hot under there,” Lane said. “That I remember.”
Lane’s tiny body and flexible young bones – plus the bike tire and rim wrapped around him like a tortilla – kept his ribs from being crushed and causing further damage, his parents said.
Lane’s back still bears the imprint of the bicycle on it, and you can still see burns and a tire imprint on his belly.
He spent days in intensive care. The nurses called Lane “Superman,” since he could hold up a car all by himself.
“It is a miracle; it is God that wrapped his arms around my son, put that tire around him,” Chuck said.
“It can’t be anything else.”
But there was something else. There was Trooper Chuck Ross and his quick action.
‘Not about the uniform’
During Lane’s time in the hospital, troopers from the same area Chuck works , which includes York County, were at the hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week – helping and offering support for one of their own.
Money to pay huge medical bills and costs of the accident was raised by churches and troopers and so many others – including Kathi’s colleagues at Belleview Elementary School in Rock Hill, where she teaches fifth grade.
“The people who helped – the Highway Patrol, the community, the teachers who work with me, the churches, the prayers, the donations – it was just amazing,” Kathi said.
“The prayer lists, the church groups, the gifts and meals – it is all just awesome.”
Cpl. Brian Benfield helped coordinate the troopers’ efforts to help the family, which including donating some of the proceeds of Monday’s annual Frank Bobo charity golf tournament that raises money for Special Olympics and other causes.
Benfield used CPR to help his own son after a seizure three years ago, and he never forgot what it was like to have to act with resolve or “think about your boy in a casket.”
“It’s not about the uniform, the insignia of the Highway Patrol,” Benfield said. “It is a little boy that has a second chance in life.
“One of our brothers needed us. We did what we do – help. It is all about helping a family in need.”
Lane’s accident has had such an impact on the Highway Patrol that CPR will remain part of the training for all troopers, despite budget cutbacks and decisions about spending that all agencies are facing, said Lance Cpl. Bryan McDougald, a patrol spokesman.
Chuck said the whole terrifying ordeal has reaffirmed the importance of taking time for children.
“You never realize how much time with your family means – playing catch with your son – until he is almost gone, and you can’t play catch anymore, maybe,” Chuck said. “It changed how I see things.
“No matter how tired I am, how grouchy after a long day, I make time because that is what fathers do.”
‘He ran like the wind’
When Lane was still recovering, before he could play on his peewee baseball team again, his teammates invited him to throw out the first pitch at a game. Of course, his dad caught that pitch.
“Boy, he threw it right down the middle – a strike,” Chuck said. “He was still recovering, but he threw it. To me. Every time a dad plays catch with a boy, that was what that meant on that field.
“That one time I needed to use CPR made it possible. It is priceless.”
After missing weeks of the coach-pitch peewee baseball season because of his injuries, Lane returned to the lineup in mid-May for the Buckeyes’ game in the league he plays in at Tega Cay.
The crowd gave a standing ovation as Lane came to bat. Parents for the other team clapped and cheered as Lane walked up to the plate, adjusted his batting helmet and stared down the pitcher.
Lane, who turned 7 two weeks after he was hurt, dug in with his still-recovering legs and bruised body underneath his No. 3 jersey. A coach threw a pitch, and Lane smashed a line drive right over third base.
“It just kept going; it rolled all the way to the fence,” Lane said. “It seemed like it just wouldn’t stop.”
Lane rounded first base and headed for second. The ball was out there in the outfield and Lane roared past second like a freight train through a tunnel.
The crowd screamed: “Run!”
“The crowd,” Chuck said, “well, I can’t explain, it was so loud and the whole place was cheering and screaming and on its feet – it was like no noise you ever heard.”
The third-base coach saw the ball coming in from the outfield, and he windmilled Lane home – yelling to Lane to run all the way.
“He ran like the wind,” Chuck said of his son. “He ran so fast.”
The throw came in from the outfield, the ball racing toward home plate just as Lane hurtled toward home plate with those burned legs.
But not in time.
Lane – just weeks after being pinned under a truck tire and not breathing and dying, really – had hit a home run in his first game back.
It was the first home run of his life.
There was not a dry eye among the adults at the field. The whole crowd – parents and families and strangers – were just crying and clapping and cheering and hugging each other all at the same time.
Lane stood there at home plate and was mobbed by his teammates.
He looked up to find his dad, and saw him crying. Chuck’s mind flashed back to his son under the truck tire.
Chuck cheered louder than anybody.
“Lane!” he screamed.
Lane and his dad are preparing for the peewee baseball banquet today, Father’s Day.
Lane last week said the same thing he thought that day that he hit a home run and looked into the crowd to find his daddy – the dad who saved his life – cheering for that home run:
“I sure got the best dad.”