A firefighter’s job is to save lives, and that’s exactly what Ryan McCuen, 35, did on a cold February day in Clinton Township, Michigan. A call came into the 9-1-1 dispatch about a family’s electricity being cut off. One of the children, a teenage boy, needs a ventilator to survive, so the family had to get the youngster to a hospital as soon as possible. What McCuen did next stunned the Stone family and made him a true hero.

Unpaid Electric Bill

The Stone family had fallen behind on the rent and the utility bills due to enormous medical expenses for two children and trying to raise five kids. Christy Stone’s 18-year-old son, Troy, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a severe form of the disease that left him unable to breathe on his own. Troy had a tracheotomy in December 2015, and he requires seven machines to keep him alive. The power must remain on at all times for Troy’s vital equipment to function. When the call came into the fire department, Troy had three hours to live. While Troy was at the hospital hooked up to a ventilator, McCuen called the power company and paid the electric bill, all $1,023 of it, with his own money. The power came back on within 20 minutes of paying the fee, and Troy came home a few hours after the power returned. Stone said she was speechless and felt as if she was in a dream after she found out McCuen paid her outstanding balance.

One Parent to Another

McCuen has a new baby daughter of his own after getting married two years ago. He couldn’t just stand by and watch another parent suffer as Stone faced the possible death of her son. McCuen said he paid the electric bill simply because the fire department is here to help and it was a no-brainer for him. The firefighter had been laid off for several years during the financial crisis, so he also understands what it means to struggle financially.

The firefighter credits his spirit of giving shown to his family and the brotherhood of firefighters in the area. McCuen’s dad was a 30-year veteran of a local firefighting crew. The first responders frequently banded together for special projects and fundraisers to help the local community. McCuen tapped into this giving spirit and paid it forward in a big way. McCuen says he didn’t want the recognition. His boss, fire chief Michael Phy, however, insisted that the township’s leaders know that they have a hero on staff. Phy also wanted the story to go the media to try to get the Stones some help. Since the story broke, dozens of people reached out to help the struggling family. A local company paid the next six months of the utility bill.

One person started a GoFundMe account, with a goal of $100,000 to help the Stone family with its expenses. By the time CNN broke the story to its nationwide audience, the fund had amassed more than $26,000 from donors everywhere. Another generous soul donated a generator and offered to install it in the home so the Stones would never be without power ever again. As for the utility company, a customer service representative promised McCuen that power to the Stone’s home was a top priority.

The Stone’s Situation

Stone says she had a doctor’s note saying that the power must remain on in the home at all times. DTE Energy claims the form was filled out improperly. Instead of a doctor’s signature, a nurse signed the form. DTE used that technicality to deny the request. The company called it an unfortunate situation and that it would do everything it could to help the Stones get assistance to pay for their power needs. DTE also said it would donate money to the firefighter’s charity of choice in recognition of his selfless act. Thanks to McCuen’s quick thinking and giving attitude, the Stone family has peace of mind and a lot of extra help when the community rallied around one of its own. See how 11-year-old Paige LaRosa’s community showed its support when her friends and neighbors found out she had ovarian cancer.