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Saving the Life of James Cummings, Jr.
Over the past several years, 76-year-old East Lansing resident James Cummings, Jr. has stopped by the East Lansing Fire Department (ELFD) a number of times to convey his appreciation for the lifesaving treatment that he received from two ELFD firefighter paramedics, Garron Vasilion and Mike Connell, more than six years ago. Here is his story:

On December 18, 2011, Cummings was finishing up a game of pick-up basketball at MSU’s IM West when he suffered a heart attack and went into full cardiac arrest. Toufic Jildeh, a pre-med MSU student who had recently received classroom instruction on CPR, happened to be in the gym at the time and stepped in quickly to begin bystander CPR – a heroic move that Vasilion and Connell credit with being a big part of what saved his life.

“We always stress the importance of community members taking CPR classes because it can make all the difference between a life saved and a life lost when heart events like these happen. Bystander CPR is certainly what made the difference in Mr. Cummings’ case,” said Vasilion. 

When Vasilion and Connell arrived at IM West on the day of the incident, they were led up to the second-floor gym where Cummings had collapsed. They quickly worked to assess the situation by speaking with bystanders and attaching a heart monitor to Cummings. 

“Knowing that he had received bystander CPR, we recognized he was likely still viable, so we went to work. We weren’t going to give up on him,” said Connell.

The monitor indicated that he was experiencing ventricular fibrillation – a life-threatening heart rhythm that results in a rapid, inadequate heartbeat. By providing the outstanding, professional services that they did that day, Vasilion and Connell were able to restore a heart rhythm that is compatible with life prior to his arrival at Sparrow Hospital. From there, Dr. Carlos Fernandez – Cummings’ cardiologist – took over treatment. It was discovered at the hospital that Cummings had a major blockage of his left anterior descending artery (LAD), which caused him to have the type of heart attack that people commonly refer to as the “widowmaker” due to its extremely low survival rate. Dr. Fernandez was able to remove the blockage and a stent was placed in the artery. 

Cummings walked out of the hospital five days later and was ready to go back to doing what he loves most: playing basketball. He credits Jildeh, Vasilion, Connell and Fernandez with being a part of his chain of survival.

“Everything fell in line in my case. In my mind, it was a miracle,” said Cummings. “My life was saved by some very well-trained professional people. I really want to highlight the fantastic job that they did and the many other lives that they’ve saved.”

Jildeh, the young pre-med student who stepped in to do CPR on that fateful day, is now an orthopedic surgeon with the Henry Ford Health System. He still talks on the phone with Cummings on major holidays and even meets up to have lunch with him from time to time. “I was really happy to have made the difference that I did in his life. It’s probably been one of the more meaningful experiences of my early life,” said Jildeh. 

As for Vasilion and Connell, they met up with Cummings today for a photo opportunity at IM West. They talked about their recollections of that day and were presented with gifts from Cummings. 

Cummings still regularly rides his bike to IM West to play basketball. He also travels the country, visiting other university gyms and challenging players to pick-up games and his favorite shooting game, H.O.R.S.E. By his estimate, he’s visited more than 30 gyms to date at universities and colleges across the country, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth and more. He always makes sure to show up decked out in his green-and-white Spartan gear, which usually gets a conversation going pretty quickly among the local players. 

“I’m still able to play basketball, travel and enjoy life because of the wonderful, professional people who intervened on my behalf back in 2011,” said Cummings.

Pictured Above (from left to right): Garron Vasilion, James Cummings, Jr. and Mike Connell; Toufic Jildeh is pictured in the inset image. 
City Offering Free Water Testing to Homes with Lead or Galvanized Steel Lines
Community members are advised that changes to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Lead and Copper Rule have resulted in a new water sampling requirement for local municipalities. Beginning this June, East Lansing and other Michigan communities must provide water samples every six months from single-family properties with lead or galvanized steel water lines.

The City of East Lansing is seeking the help of community members in meeting these new sampling requirements by determining/reporting the components of their water service line (if they have not done so already) and signing up to be a water sampling site if they have a lead or galvanized steel water service line. Property owners can determine/report the components of their water service line by taking the City’s online water survey or calling the East Lansing Department of Public Works (DPW) at (517) 337-9459 to schedule a free assessment with a DPW staff member.

Those who agree to be a water sampling site will receive free testing of their water and a $25 gift card if three consecutive samples are provided over the course of 18 months. The process for gathering the samples is easy:
  • Sample bottles will be supplied.
  • Property owners will be asked to not use water in their homes for at least six hours and then fill the bottles with water.
  • The bottles will be picked up for free testing.
It should be noted that homes built before the 1950’s are more likely to have water service lines with a lead or galvanized steel component. Residents who own older homes in the East Lansing community are strongly encouraged to participate in the water survey and take advantage of this free testing opportunity.

Community members with question or those interested in signing up as a water sampling site can contact DPW Infrastructure Administrator Ron Lacasse at (517) 319-6925. The first 65 households to sign up will receive the free testing and all additional households will be placed on a wait list for future water sampling/testing opportunities.

Community members can learn more about the quality of the City of East Lansing’s water supply at
Teal Prayer Flag Installation in Downtown East Lansing Supports Sister Survivors
The City of East Lansing has partnered with the Parents of Sister Survivors Engage (POSSE) to install teal prayer flags in the Tibetan tradition in downtown East Lansing for each of the 505 known survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse. 

POSSE has been working since fall 2018 to create the teal prayer flags in support of the survivors of Nassar, a former osteopathic physician at MSU who was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison in 2018 on child pornography charges as well as two consecutive terms (an effective life sentence) in Ingham and Eaton counties on criminal sexual conduct charges. The flags are signed by numerous individuals from the MSU student body with words of support and encouragement for the survivors. There are at least 4,000 messages of support.

“In making these flags, our goal was to hang them near campus for all to see and, as prayer flags, spread their messages of goodwill on the wind throughout the community,” said Valerie von Frank, founder and chair of POSSE and a mother of one of the survivors. “The flags will then be given to the individual survivors.”  

“We are honored to be able to provide a public space for these flags, which will be prominently displayed throughout the month of April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” said East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows. “We stand with the survivors and are pleased to be a part of this meaningful project.”

“We are so pleased that the mayor offered the City’s support and encouragement in calling attention to the survivors, and more to the issue of sexual assault in general,” said von Frank. “It really has to be an ongoing, public conversation if we are going to change rape culture.”

Campus organizations helped in the hundreds of hours it took to get the teal prayer flags signed, including Reclaim MSU, student councils with the College of Arts & Letters and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, the MSU College Democrats, the Women’s Health Alliance, MSU Women’s Council, MSU Fraternity & Sorority Life and the Bailey Scholars Program. In addition, Country Stitches – an East Lansing business – offered support and area quilters and sewers donated their skills, including, but not limited to: Glenna Segall, Linda Karek and Teresa Zuker. It’s Yours Signs in Mason donated supplies.

To commemorate this special installation, a dedication ceremony was held this past Thursday, April 11 in the heart of downtown East Lansing. The City would like to thank all of the amazing speakers, including the two sister survivors who shared their powerful stories and expressed what the flags mean to them.

Community Invited to 2019 Crystal Awards

The 2019 Crystal Awards community reception will take place on Thursday, April 18 at 5 p.m. at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road. Four unsung heroes will be honored for their contributions to the East Lansing community. All community members are invited to attend.

ELPL Hosting 8th Annual Books, Bites & Bids Tonight

Community members are invited to the East Lansing Public Library's 8th Annual Books, Bites & Bids fundraising event, taking place tonight, April 12 from 5:30-9 p.m. There is a suggested donation at the door and having a reservation is not necessary. Learn more here.

No-Fee Yard Waste Collection on April 15

Community members are reminded that the City of East Lansing's first no-fee curbside yard waste collection day of spring 2019 is Monday, April 15. Advanced requests and City bags/stickers are not required on no-fee days; however, all other yard waste guidelines do apply. Learn more

East Lansing Northern Tail Dog Park Re-Opens

East Lansing's Northern Tail Dog Park, 6400 Abbot Road, re-opened to the public on Monday, April 8 after being closed for the winter season. The fenced-in park is the perfect destination for some off-leash fun for dogs! Learn more.

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