Posted March 23, 2018 | Updated April 5, 2018

Guest Saved by CMA Staff Returns to Say Thank You

Bill Bushman on dolphin platform

At Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), our mission is to rescue, rehab and release marine life, while inspiring the human spirit. In March 2016, a CMA staff member was an imperative part of this rescue mission in a life-changing way.

In 2016, Mike Malkov, the CMA Parking Lead at the time, saved the life of a guest at the aquarium. Bill Bushman, who was visiting the aquarium with his family, suffered a severe heart attack while waiting for their ride home. If it wasn’t for Mike and his actions that day, Bill would no longer be with us.

Bushman Family Visits CMA to Meet Dolphin Tale Stars

Bill, who manages a condo complex in Long Boat Key, was visiting the aquarium in March 2016 with his wife Chris, his son and daughter-in-law, and his grandson Zachary who was four years old at the time. The trip to CMA was Zachary’s Christmas present, as he lived in Michigan and watched Winter’s webcam every night. The cast of Dolphin Tale was at the aquarium that day and Zachary was able to meet Nathan Gamble, who plays Sawyer in the Dolphin Tale movies, which he had been extremely excited for prior to the trip.

bushman family in front of dolphin tale background

Bushman Family visiting CMA in 2016.

Code Red Medical Emergency

Mid-morning that day, Mike received a “Code Red” call from the church parking lot (a Code Red call means that medical assistance is needed). Mike rushed to the church lot to find Bill laying on the ground, surrounded by numerous people, receiving CPR.

Mike, a retired Chicago firefighter and paramedic with 31 years on the job, immediately took over CPR while someone called 911 to relay exactly what Mike was doing until the paramedics arrived. Bill was turning blue and not breathing and in Mike’s words “he was gone, he was not alive.”

Mike Focused on Saving Bill’s Life

Mike remained calm and did not panic; having responded to two plane crashes, a train crash and having done CPR many times throughout his career, Mike is used to dealing with highly stressful situations and was staying focused on everything he could to save Bill’s life.

After around seven minutes (although it seemed like forever to Mike), the Clearwater Fire Department arrived and told Mike to keep doing CPR while they began IV drips and blood pressure cuffs. Bill’s pulse was unstable.

Twenty-five more minutes passed, as Bill’s family waited anxiously. Sun Star Ambulance arrived, continued CPR and transported Bill to Morton Plant Hospital.

Family Thankful Following Unexpected Recovery

The following evening, Bill’s family, who had traveled from Michigan, Tennessee, and Orlando after hearing the news, were called into his room by the doctor to say their goodbyes.

However, unexpectedly, the following day, Bill woke up.

Chris says “the doctors were amazed he was alive.” In the next few days, Bill had a pacemaker fitted and he was released back home the very same day.

Bill’s family remains grateful for the aquarium, and Mike Malkov.

“For me, the aquarium is a blessing,” Says Bill’s wife, Chris. “Without Mike, I wouldn’t have my husband.”

bill bushman and mike

Bill and Chris Bushman with Mike Malkov.

One Memory Forgotten But a Strong Friendship Formed

The heart attack did create some permanent memory loss. Bill is unable to remember anything from the weeks surrounding the incident. He has no recollection of ever visiting CMA and even photos have been unable to retrieve his lost memories.

bill bushman meeting dolphin on platform

However, a positive result of this terrifying incident is the formation of a strong friendship. Mike and Bill, along with their wives, have become best friends. In 2017,

Bill and Chris contacted Mike and their friendship began to flourish through numerous phone calls and text messages. In August 2017, Mike and Bill met in person for the first time since the heart attack and it was an extremely emotional experience. Since then, the two couples have continued to meet up and now share many wonderful memories together. “Mike is our family now,” says Chris.

On March 22, 2018, Bill, Chris, and their family returned to Clearwater Marine Aquarium for the two-year anniversary of the incident. The family spent the day with Mike, their rescuer, and the rescued animals at CMA.

Mike Adds to the List of Rescue Stories that Live at CMA

Mike says he believes in CMA’s rescue mission 100% and that on a bad day, he will go and look at Winter, Hope and Nicholas, who have gone through such traumatic events leading up to their rescue and are thriving. This reminds Mike that if they can, then he can! He says that the traumatic event has made him more passionate for life and he has learned to just take life one day at a time.

“Grasp what you have today,” says Mike. “Go for your dream.”

Bill Bushman is not the only life Mike has saved during his time working for CMA. In September 2017, a friend of CMA’s CEO David Yates’s, suffered a heart attack and Mike, along with two other staff members, Vic and Jill, saved her life.

Mike is an amazing representation of Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s rescue work — of all life.



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