It was just a normal day for Michael Powell when we walked into the Lowes on W. Overland in Boise, Idaho. He was there to pick up wood for a deck he was building in his backyard.
A former soldier, 36 year old Powell was not one to complain, even after suffering abdominal pain for several days. When the pain became too much he called his doctor.
"Michael called on Monday to make an appointment," Powell's wife, Cindy said. "But we had just changed our health insurance and the company only accepted a faxed copy of our driver's license, but their fax machine was broken. We tried to mail it but they say they never got it. Then we showed up in person and they said we weren't in their system."
Unsure if they would be covered for a doctor's visit, Powell delayed seeking medical attention until it was too late.
What Powell didn't know was that he had been suffering from symptoms of appendicitis. It's a condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed and painful. Left untreated, the appendix can rupture, releasing dangerous toxins into the body. Without immediate care a ruptured appendix can lead to death.
"I heard a scream."
At around 10:30 am near the wood cutting area of his local Lowes, Powell's appendix suddenly burst.
"I heard a scream and then I look over and I see this man on the ground grabbing his stomach," Walter Flynn, a Lowes employee and former anesthesiologist said. "I ran over to see if he was hurt."
Flynn had practice anesthesiology for nearly 12 years in Las Vegas. He had worked in the OR and had seen his fair share of appendectomies.
"I recognized the symptoms," Flynn said. "I also knew the man didn't have enough time before the toxins would kill him."
Lost his medical license.
Despite a flawless record and high patient satisfaction, Flynn lost his medical license.
"It has alway been my belief that you need to know the product that you're administering to the patient, and I still strongly believe this," Flynn said. "But the hospital didn't like that I was sampling some of the opiates, neither did the medical board."
Flynn took a plea deal in which he would go on probation and lose his medical license to avoid prison time. After his probation ended Flynn moved up to Idaho to start fresh.
Here is where he landed his first job at Lowes. His manager assigned him to lumber where Flynn excelled, reaching employee of the month numerous times.
"...like someone stabbed me..."
As Powell lay on the ground, Flynn grabbed the man by his legs and dragged him over to the wood cutting machine.
"It went from a dull bloated pain to a sharp pain, like someone stabbed me in the gut with a ice pick," Powell said, from his living room in Boise, where he is recovering.
While still conscious, Powell remembers Flynn shoving ear plugs into his ears and telling him things were about to get loud.
"I took out my measuring tape, made some marks, and lowered the saw," Flynn said. "It got real messy real fast. The saw isn't as precise as a scalpel, so the cut was much deeper than it needed to be."
The procedure was over within ten minutes. Flynn was able to use hose clamps from the plumbing aisle to stop the hemorrhaging. He also used industrial staplers and fishing line to sew the wound.
Lowes management was instrumental in the life-saving procedure. John Malone, a regional manager assisted in the surgery and he even encouraged onlookers to take photos and post the images to social media.
"We heard about Home Depot making a walker for a young boy without health insurance, and they got a lot of good press for it. So we figured this would get us some good press coverage too," Malone said. "We're now considering offering more services, maybe even building a surgery center in the back."
Powell has since received his medical insurance card, but has been unable to use it due a spelling error. He is expected to make a full recovery.