BURLINGTON, N.C. — Thomas Coyne has made the trip down I-40 thousands of times. Earlier this year, he was heading to work, but this time, he didn’t make it.
“I felt an explosion in my chest,” Coyne said.
He quickly maneuvered the car to the shoulder before calling 911. Coyne slid in and out of consciousness as he waited for paramedics to arrive.
“The pain was so overwhelming, I started to think about others, wondering if I would die,” Coyne said.
Paramedics were able to get to Coyne quickly and provided life-saving medical attention. Coyne was taken to Alamance Regional Medical Center before being stabilized and taken to Cone Health’s main campus.
“They found an aneurysm the size of a grapefruit,” Coyne said.
The surgery lasted 10 hours, but doctors and nurses were able to remove the aneurysm and perform a coronary bypass. The delicate and dangerous surgery was a success and Coyne woke up late that evening alive but overwhelmed by everything he went through.
“I found out later I was dying,” Coyne said.
He spent the next week in the hospital recovering from the surgery before going home. His wife was there through it all and has been instrumental since he was sent home.
“I’m lucky to have her,” Coyne said.
With all the craziness and responsibilities that followed his surgery, it was about 10 days later that Coyne realized something, what happened to his car?
Left on the side of I-40 when paramedics transported him to the hospital, it was simply something that slipped his mind with all that was going on. His wife started to make some calls to try and figure out where it was.
“She called all around to find that car,” Coyne said.
Coyne told us local law enforcement agencies had no record of the car being towed or stolen. Coyne wasn’t sure what to do. His wife was eventually able to connect with someone at the State Highway Patrol Office who informed her the car was towed and taken to Adams Towing in Burlington.
By now, it had been several weeks since Coyne left the car on the side of the freeway following his medical emergency. When he initially reached out to the towing company about picking the car up, he was told the impound fees would be right around $1,600.
“I didn’t have that kind of money,” Coyne said.
The fees were so high because of the amount of time the car sat in storage. Storage fees for towing companies often run between $30 and $50 a day.
Still recovering from surgery, Coyne reached out to News 2 for help. We contacted the owner of Adams towing and explained the issue in detail. He told us he would investigate the situation and get back to us or Coyne. It didn’t take long before he called and agreed to cut the bill by more than 75%.
“I thought that was more than fair. I could afford that,” Coyne said.
A couple of days later, Coyne was able to pick the car up and take it home.
“I want people to understand your station is the best,” Coyne said.
The road to recovery is still ongoing and will take several months - maybe more than a year. Despite the issue involving his heart and the area around it, Coyne still does not have full movement of one of his hands following the incident.
He wears a special glove on his hand to promote blood flow which doctors hope will help in the recovery.
Maybe the most amazing thing in all of this is that while Coyne was having a heart attack, he was able to steer his car through traffic to the side of the road. Coyne is alive today because of the amazing efforts of paramedics and doctors and nurses. One can’t help but wonder how many people were uninjured or saved because Coyne didn’t crash his car but pulled it off to the side of the road.