Ottawa County

Retired doctor saves truck driver's life after crash

GRAND HAVEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) –  Tuesday morning, retired doctor Henry "Hank" Ottens went a different way back on his daily bike ride.

He had no specific reason for doing so.

"I thought I would take an alternate route home," Ottens explained to 24 Hour News 8 Friday. 

Ottens was stopped at the intersection of US-31 and Hayes St. in Grand Haven Township just before 10 a.m. when he heard "tires chattering" on a braking semi-truck heading southbound.

Across the highway he saw the reason why. 

"It's a truck like that right there – a white truck – he veered here and just kinda gently cruised into the thicket," Ottens said. 

A truck driver was heading northbound on US-31 and had slowed down to make a right-hand turn. But he'd suddenly suffered a heart attack and veered left. 

"It was surreal. The truck was just hardly moving," Ottens described.

He said the truck crossed the median, over the southbound lanes and into the brush

That's when Ottens – a retired orthopedic surgeon – used the help of two other men to pull the driver's lifeless body from the cab. 

He started performing CPR. 

"There's not much of an emotion," Ottens said. "You just have to get him out and do what you have to do."

Paramedics showed up not long after and the driver – a local man named Jim Young – was rushed to the hospital in Muskegon.

Young's wife, Gwen, recalled her arrival to the emergency room. 

"The doctor just shook his head. They said it wasn't good," she told 24 Hour News 8.

But after three days, two surgeries, and countless prayers – Young is somehow alive and recovering.

His family is in disbelief. 

"Why didn't he hit cars going across the street? Why didn't he hit signs and why didn't… why was this doctor there? What were the chances of him being there?" Gwen Young wondered, trying to hold back tears while surrounded by family. "It's just a lot of whys that I don't know. The only thing I can think of is our faith and the good Lord."

Hank Ottens is now being credited by emergency crews for helping to save Jim Young's life. 

"He’s our hero," Gwen Young said of Ottens. "I owe him so much. We all owe him so much.”

Although the two sides have never met, they share one faith – and a belief that how all this happened was no coincidence.

"I have to believe that nothing happens by chance," Ottens said at the crash scene. "That for some reason I chose to take the alternate route. And came upon the scene in time to be of some help." 

Jim Young's family said he does have a long recovery ahead but they are confident he will continue make fast progress.

Gwen Young said when her husband is well enough, they want to meet Ottens – the retired doctor who was in the right place at the right time to save a life. 


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