OMAHA, Neb. — After 25 years as a family doctor in Lutcher, Dr. Jerry Poché was looking to get away from work for just a little while during the College World Series. He wanted, of course, to watch his son Jared pitch his final games for the LSU Tigers.
Of course, when you’re in the medical profession, you’re never really off. Not if someone is in need.
A couple decades ago, Poché had to come to a person’s aid at the Superdome while attending one of Lutcher High School’s appearances in the state football championships.
Monday night, during Game 1 of the CWS finals, Poché had to do the same thing for a fan who suffered a heart attack.
It was the sixth inning between the Tigers and Florida Gators, when Cole Freeman’s mother Kellie rushed to see Poché.
“Doc,” she said, “we’ve got somebody in trouble.”
Poché and Jimmy Roy, father of LSU baseball strength and conditioning coordinator Travis Roy, jumped out of their seats in Section 117, where the LSU families sit. They hurried up to the main concourse. There they saw a Florida fan in his 80s named Bobby Harvey, whose family members were trying to hold him up.
Poché quickly checked Harvey’s vital signs. He found no pulse. Harvey’s breathing was what Poché called “agonal,” an irregular type of gasping a person does when his or her normal involuntary breathing patterns are knocked out of whack for some reason.
It meant Harvey was in a death spiral.
“We quickly put him down and started chest compressions,” Poché said. Jimmy Roy gave Harvey mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while another LSU fan cradled Harvey’s head to keep it off the polished concrete of the concourse.
“Next thing you know,” Poché said, “he started breathing on his own and he got his pulse back.”
It took five to seven minutes of work by Poché and Roy before paramedics arrived. Poché said they put AED (automated external defibrillator) pads on Harvey’s chest. His heart started beating on his own as the paramedics put him on a stretcher and whisked him way to an Omaha hospital.
Word early Tuesday afternoon was that Harvey had been upgraded to good condition.
“Thank God he made it to the hospital,” Poché said.
It was actually the second time Poché had to give medical attention to a fan at the CWS.
During Saturday’s LSU-Oregon State game, a Beavers player lined a sharp foul ball into the stands above the third-base dugout. The ball struck a young boy, an Oregon State fan, on the forehead. He eventually went to the emergency room, but not before he got checked out by Poché to make sure he was OK.
“He had a big old egg on his head,” Poché said, just like you'd expect a good old country doctor would.
Word spread quickly of what happened Monday night, first on social media then through a couple of initial media reports, including one in The Advocate.
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By Tuesday, morning the media requests to speak to Poché were so numerous an impromptu news conference was called at LSU’s downtown hotel about five hours before the game — a game Poche’s son was going to start in, the final start of Jared Poche’s record-breaking LSU career.
When Jared pitched LSU to a 7-4 victory last Wednesday over Florida State, he set a program record with his 39th career victory, moving past a tie with Scott Schultz (1992-95). A lot of attention came the LSU left-hander’s way after that, but he tried to downplay his achievement by drawing attention to the players who hit and played defense behind him for four years.
“It’s an individual thing,” Jerry Poché said, “and we’re not big on individual stuff. Jared had been thinking about it, but mostly it’s a team effort. Jared doesn’t strike out 27 people a game — (maybe) two. It’s a great accomplishment when you think about it. But that’s for next week to think about.”
Jerry and Jared Poché resemble each other closely, in appearance, build and mannerisms. Jerry Poché isn’t too comfortable with individual attention either, like impromptu news conferences where people ask him about his heroism.
To him, as to probably all medical professionals, it isn’t about being a hero.
“Not hero,” Poché said. “He (Jimmy Roy) is the hero. He had to give mouth-to-mouth. I just did chest compressions.
“It’s what you’re trained to do.”
Poché joked that in all the commotion, he completely missed Antoine Duplantis’ solo home run into the Florida bullpen behind the right field wall that pulled the Tigers within 3-1 of the Gators. They eventually lost a close 4-3 game, putting LSU in a win-or-go-home situation Tuesday night.
Before Monday night, one would easily have been tempted to call LSU's second game in the CWS finals a do-or-die scenario.
Dr. Jerry Poché would certainly tell you differently.