12-year-old kicks in door to reach stroke victim

EVERETT — Sam Cimball has always been a good neighbor.

On March 8, he was extraordinary.

That afternoon, the 12-year-old Eisenhower Middle School student kicked in a door to come to the aid of his next-door neighbor who had suffered a stroke.

The way his mom tells it, Sam was calm and decisive when it mattered most.

“He was totally Mighty Mouse,” Molly Cimball said. “He wasn’t a 12-year-old boy. He was a man in charge and he was going to make it happen.”

The mother and son had been asked to check on Dick Thibert, 69, when he didn’t answer his wife’s telephone call.

Molly Cimball looked through a window of the home in the 13100 block of 27th Drive SE. She saw nothing.

When Sam peered in, he spotted the man’s arm on the floor between a coffee table and couch.

He instantly sensed Thibert was in trouble.

“He might not be breathing,” Sam told his mom. “We’ve got to get to him now.”

Sam gave the door three thunderous kicks with his size 13 basketball shoes before it gave way.

Once inside, they discovered the retired dump truck driver alive but unable to speak or move.

As Molly Cimball called 911, Sam cleared room for medics. He pushed aside a heavy coffee table “as if it was balsa wood” and moved the couch, she said.

When the mom realized she couldn’t remember the Thiberts’ street number, Sam grabbed the phone from her and ran to the front of the house where he relayed the correct numbers to the dispatcher.

Molly Cimball offered reassurance to Thibert while Sam put a blanket over him.

Paramedics from Snohomish County Fire District 1 arrived minutes later, as did Dick’s wife, Karen, and son, Kenny.

“(Sam) was so calm about it,” Karen Thibert said. “Thank God. I was a total basket case. I couldn’t think.”

“He was more level-headed than I was,” Molly Cimball said.

As they waited, Sam apologized to his neighbors for breaking their door. He promised to mow their lawn and pull weeds all summer to help pay for the damage.

“Sammy, he’s just a little jewel,” Karen Thibert said.

She remembers Sam scouring the neighborhood by himself when their cat, K-Dee, disappeared for more than five weeks.

Sam is rather understated about his role in helping his neighbor.

“I gave it three hard kicks,” he recalled. “Even if it would have hurt, I wouldn’t have known. I had to help him.”

The Thiberts are getting more help as Dick continues to recover at a Seattle hospital.

When Molly Cimball told Teresa Vetter of Everett about the damaged door, her friend called a local Home Depot to see if it could help the couple replace it. Employees paid a visit to the Thibert’s home Monday morning and plan to provide and install a new door, as well as build a ramp to get in and out of the home and install grab bars for the bathroom, Cimball said.

“I was almost in tears, just the generosity,” she said.

Fire district Capt. Bob Eastman said Sam did what he hopes others would do under similar circumstances.

“He stayed calm and collected throughout,” he said. “He did everything you would expect adults to do, which they don’t always do.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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