A recent first aid class taught CPR to Indiana student Mitch McCune, who three weeks later performed about eight minutes of the technique on Isaac Griffith – perhaps saving his life in the process.
Griffith, a Fort Wayne native and Indiana football player, remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday night in a Sarasota, Fla., hospital.
Doctors in the critical care unit at Sarasota Memorial Hospital said Griffith was “showing small but incremental improvements,” according to a statement released by spokeswoman Kim Savage on Tuesday night.
Injured in a swimming accident while on a spring break vacation, Griffith has been in a medically induced coma since late Monday.
His father, Shannon Griffith, told The Journal Gazette that his son was “winning little battles.”
“Faith is what’s moving all of us, especially the parents,” McCune said. “They’re taking the approach, ‘One hour at a time.’ They’re not dwelling on the past. It’s all about moving forward. Isaac is winning these little battles.”
McCune, a freshman athletic training major, met Griffith through mutual friend Ty Smith, a safety for the Hoosiers, and the three plan to room together during the upcoming school year. Indiana wide receiver Nick Stoner was in the water with them at Siesta Beach when rip currents hit.
Griffith and McCune were separated, and Smith and Stoner left the ocean before they did. Stoner, McCune said, was scared by the waves and didn’t feel comfortable.
No lifeguards were on duty, and the beach was mostly vacant.
“It was bad weather,” McCune said. “The waves are pretty bad overall. It started off, we went waist deep and big waves came, and we were fine. We stayed close. Then we lost track of it.”
Griffith was fully submerged and drowning. Somehow, McCune pulled him to shore despite the tides.
“It was very, very fortunate,” McCune said. “It was hard. I was scared for my own life. I felt like we were getting no progress because of the rip current. I was pretty nervous, like, ‘How am I going to get Isaac to shore, and how am I going to get to shore myself?’ It was a helpless feeling.”
McCune repeatedly screamed for help, but neither Smith nor Stoner could hear or locate them.
“They were worried about us,” McCune said. “Nick actually got on a lifeguard tower. He was searching for us.”
Griffith was on a ventilator earlier Tuesday to help his lungs heal, according to his father. There was no indication whether Griffith has since been removed from the ventilator.
“We are seeing positive signs throughout the day,” Shannon and wife Kim said in a joint statement issued by the hospital.
Currents carried Griffith and McCune about 15 yards past the buoys, according to an incident report from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department.
“It was like getting taken under by a wave,” McCune said. “You really don’t have a whole lot of control.”
The report alleged that the four men consumed alcohol in a room at La Siesta Condominiums before going swimming.
McCune said the accounts of drinking were untrue and “disappointing.”
“We’ve all been really angry,” McCune said. “It’s about Isaac. We’re upset he can’t defend himself with all this talk. It’s making us seem like stereotypical college students that we’re coming on spring break and drinking and this is what happened. The reality is that alcohol had nothing to do with this. It’s just a tragic accident.”
When reached Tuesday by The Journal Gazette, Stoner, entering his senior season, said he was unharmed but declined to discuss other circumstances surrounding the accident.
“I’d rather not talk about it right now, that’s not my focus,” Stoner said.
Meanwhile, the family asked for privacy and to not have any visitors or phone calls.
Griffith starred at Homestead before redshirting the 2013 season, his first at IU.