January 6, 2014 proved to be one of the coldest days on record for Cincinnati. Temperatures dipped well below zero and the conditions were downright dangerous for everyone.
But just like every other day, the U.S. Postal Service had a job to do. Hundreds of carriers delivered the mail to thousands of tri-state residents. Mike Bruser was one of them.
It was his last day to deliver the mail to Palisades Point Condominiums, a route he had been delivering in place of another mailman. As he was placing the mail in each of the mailboxes, Bruser heard a loud noise.
"I was delivering mail here and I saw an elderly man out of the corner of my eye walking and then I heard him fall," says Bruser.
That man was 78-year-old Thurman Blades who says he was walking to the clubhouse at Palisades Point to pay his monthly dues when he suddenly found himself on the pavement unable to move.
"I hit a patch of ice and I went down. I went down right on my knee," says Blades.
Without hesitation, Bruser ran to Mr. Blades' side and tried to help him back to his feet. It was the middle of the day and no one was around to help. Bruser realized he was not strong enough to help Mr. Blades alone.
"He couldn't get up and I couldn't pick him up. I tried," says Bruser. "I called 911. I ran to my truck and got all the cold weather gear I had and wrapped him up the best I could. It was already -3 that day."
As they waited 20 minutes for paramedics to arrive, Bruser pulled Mr. Blades to the side of the clubhouse and propped him up against the wall. Together, in the freezing cold, they watched cars pass by without even noticing the trouble.
"He even held my hands," says an emotional Mr. Blades as he recalls that long, cold wait.
"I kept his hands in mine. One was numb so I was making sure he still had the feeling left in his fingers and toes," says Bruser.
"I mean, I really appreciate him. He came to my aide right away. He didn't even hesitate," says Mr. Blades.
After a few weeks of recovery, Mr. Blades finally had the chance to thank the man he says saved his life. Bruser even brought the same USPS hat he placed on Mr. Blades to keep him warm until the ambulance arrived. He says that hat sat in his closet for nine years. He just happened to put it in his van January 6th just in case he needed it.
Mr. Blades says his knee is feeling much better and he's getting around just fine with the help of a cane. His wife Helena calls Bruser a hero. With the clubhouse closed and few people braving the cold temperatures, her husband could have frozen to death waiting for help. It is an act of compassion Bruser says any mailman would have shown.
"Anyone of us would have helped him. It wouldn't have mattered if it was me or somebody else here. We wouldn't turn our back on anybody. Just happened to be here at the right time I guess," says Bruser.