The first time Lexi Lindsey laid eyes on Brian Putt, there was no formal introduction, no handshake or polite greeting.
Brian had collapsed on the side of the road, and Lexi was in a dead sprint after seeing Brian stagger to the shoulder of State Road 37 and wave his arms in a plea for help.
Brian, a married father of two daughters, an employee at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane and U.S. Navy veteran, was suffering from heart arrhythmia. His implanted defibrillator was shocking his heart.
Lexi was on her way to a Justin Timberlake concert in Indianapolis. When she saw the Spencer man in trouble, she shouted at the person driving to stop the car.
What followed was a story of how one selfless teenager stopping to help a stranger likely saved his life.
Last week, the Times-Mail shared the story of Lexi’s actions and how she used skills she learned in her health careers class at the North Lawrence Career Center to help Brian until an ambulance arrived. She called 911, pulled him out of the roadway and kept talking to him to keep him alert and conscious.
Brian was placed in the ambulance without Lexi ever learning his name.
However, on Monday, when Brian came into her classroom at the career center, it was clear she had not forgotten his face. Carrying a bouquet of flowers, his appearance stunned the Bedford North Lawrence senior, who immediately burst into tears at the sight of him.
For Lexi, it was a reunion she never thought would happen.
“I’m just glad you’re OK,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks.
Putt, a guy who stands 6 feet 2 inches, embraced Lexi in a bear hug, thanking her, not just for himself but his wife, daughters, friends, family, and co-workers for what she did April 2.
He, too, wondered who the young woman was who stopped to help. It wasn’t long before he learned her name. Brian said he works with a couple of Bedford residents who told him about the newspaper story.
“After reading the article, I can’t imagine what that day was like for you,” he said. “I’m guessing you were sitting in the car, singing ‘Bye, Bye, Bye’ and ‘Bringing Sexy Back’ … my daughter would do the exact same thing. When in the blink of an eye your life gets altered. That’s the way life works. You’re going down a path and it gets altered.”
“What made you stop? It’s something called character. What is that? It’s doing the right thing when no one else will,” he said to the students. “I was disoriented from the shocks of the defibrillator, but as soon as I saw the car pull up, I had a sense of calm and I knew I’d be all right.”
In addition to thanking Lexi personally, he joked, “I wanted you to know I’m more than just a bigger guy,” referring to the description she gave of him to the Times-Mail.
Besides praising Lexi for stopping, he had a message for the classmates crowded into the classroom.
“You have so much character, you broke down a stereotype for your generation,” he said to her.
“You guys are eating Tide pods,” he said, evoking laughter from the students. But, with seriousness, he added, “Anyone in this room could be a hero. You don’t have to save a life, if you see an elderly person in the store, help them with groceries.”
Brian explained to the class it was exactly one year ago when he experienced heart arrhythmia while in Florida on a work trip.
“What that is, is basically your brain is telling your heart to do some crazy things,” he said.
He was hospitalized and doctors implanted a defibrillator in his heart.
“For a year, everything went perfectly,” he said. Until that day a few weeks ago on State Road 37 near Tapp Road in Monroe County. Brian explained he spent a couple [of] days in the hospital and had a procedure called an ablation. He’s fine now and hopes it stays that way.
In the chaos of the moment, he said one thing that stood out to him — Lexi’s calmness.
“I’ve seen grown men in the Navy break down in stressful situations,” he said.
“I’m just glad to know I helped and that what I did actually meant something, and he’s OK,” she said.
Before leaving the classroom, Brian had one more thing for Lexi: “For 20 years, I was a submarine guy. The proudest day of my submarine career was when I earned my dolphins,” he said.
The dolphins pin — two dolphins flanking a submarine — is a significant award for members of the U.S. Navy sub fleet.
He said for the first year he served on a sub he was a NUB, which, in Navy lingo, stands for non-useful body. He was not allowed to touch a weapon or stand watch. He spent a year learning all the systems of the submarine. With his knowledge, he appeared before a peer board who grilled him with questions.
He held up his dolphins pin, “You’re not given these, you earn them. I was awarded them Oct. 19, 1993.”
Turning to Lexi, he reached out, giving the pin to her, “You earned them.”