Boy's composure in crisis provides lifeline for dad

Nov. 12, 2023, is a day the Meltzer family of Hinsdale will long remember.

The late autumn Sunday began with a drive to the bike shop for 10-year-old Jacob Meltzer and his dad, Bob, to get Jacob's wheel fixed. Returning home, Jacob hopped out in the driveway and Bob proceeded into the garage. But something was off.

"When my dad pulled in, he started hitting the garbage can," recounted Jacob, who jokingly admonished his dad to watch where he was going.

It quickly became evident that this wasn't a joking matter.

"He didn't answer me, and I started to get worried. Then I could see the right side of his lip drooping down, and he was trying to loosen his collar with just one hand," Jacob said. "He was just moaning."

He called his mom, who was with his older sister at ballet rehearsal in Chicago and unable to assess the situation. Jacob drew on his knowledge of what do in an emergency.

"I called 9-1-1, and they asked me where he lived and what his name was," he related.

The village's emergency responders arrived within minutes as neighbors stepped outside to determine the cause of the commotion.

"I felt happy because I knew that (the paramedics) were going to come very fast and take care of my dad," Jacob said. "I thought to myself, 'I know my dad's going to recover.' "

According to the Hinsdale Fire Department's report, "Jacob remained calm and answered the medic's questions about what had happened and when the symptoms started. This vital information made it possible for the firefighters to activate a 'Stroke Alert' with Hinsdale Hospital, which reduced the scene time significantly and allowed the hospital to initiate critical tests and treatments before the ambulance even left the scene."

At the house, Jacob was placed in the ambulance, too, until his uncle came with older brother, Alec, who had been spending the night with their grandparents. They were overcome with emotion at seeing their dad in such a state.

"My and my brother were crying so much. We were really scared," Jacob said.

The whole family eventually met up at the hospital. Their dad was still unable to speak, stoking their anxiety. But after getting so called "clot buster" medications while being airlifted to UChicago Medicine downtown for potential surgery, Bob's condition dramatically improved.

"How come I couldn't go in the helicopter?" Jacob asked his dad.

The Madison School fifth-grader has certainly earned a ride on his desired mode of transportation, and at Tuesday night's village board meeting, Jacob's actions earned him a Life Saving Award in recognition of his courage.

"His ability to remain calm and collected in a frightening and chaotic situation exemplifies what it means to be a hero," Village President Tom Cauley read in a proclamation. "His bravery and quick thinking saved his father's life."

Cauley added that it was only the third such honor he had bestowed in his 15 years as village president.

Jacob said he's just glad his dad is OK.

"If a situation like that comes up again, I know exactly what to do," he said.

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff