Tax worker helps save taxpayer's life

Adair man calls tax employee lifesaver

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comJune 19, 2010 

FRANKFORT — They say death and taxes are inevitable.

But in the case of Earl Phillips, taxes may have helped save the Adair County man's life.

When Phillips called the state Department of Revenue last month to get answers about his state income tax bill, the faceless Frankfort bureaucrat who called him back saved his life.

Now Phillips thinks Department of Revenue employee Natalie Brown — who dialed 911 when Phillips had a heart attack during that May 26th phone call — should receive more than a simple thank you.

"I'm very proud of that lady," Phillips said. "She saved my life. As far as I'm concerned, there is no end to what she deserves."

Phillips, an Adair County construction worker, received a tax notice in late May with Brown's name and phone number

When Brown returned the call he'd placed, she noticed that Phillips, 60, seemed out of sorts.

"I noticed he was breathing really heavily," Brown said Friday. "I could tell something was wrong."

Brown, 23, asked Phillips if he was OK. But Phillips told Brown he wasn't sure what was wrong.

Phillips said Friday he didn't want to tell a complete stranger on the sixth floor of a Frankfort office building hundreds of miles away that he needed help. He had never really been sick before and had no history of heart problems, he said. He was hoping that whatever was wrong with him would pass.

It didn't.

"I didn't know what to say to her," Phillips said. "At the same time, I did need help."

Phillips' breathing seemed to get worse as minutes ticked by, Brown said.

So Brown verified she had the correct address for Phillips — which was on his tax forms — and called Adair County 911.

Shortly after that, emergency crews arrived and took Phillips, who was home alone, to a local hospital. He was later transferred to a Louisville hospital, where doctors put a stent, or tube, in his heart. He had a 90 percent blockage in one of his arteries, Phillips said.

Brown, meanwhile, spent the next several days worried about Phillips. She left a message on his phone.

About a week later, Phillips called Brown to thank her and tell her that he was OK.

Phillips said Friday he is now on medication, and feels much better. But he still can't believe Brown didn't hang up on him.

"Ninety percent of people nowadays would have left me on my own," Phillips said.

But Brown also credits a bit of serendipity with saving Phillips' life.

Phillips had originally called on May 25.

Brown, who usually keeps all of her contacts and phone messages in one notebook, accidentally put Phillips' number on a different piece of paper. It wasn't until May 26 — the day of Phillips' heart attack — that she returned his phone call.

Brown's boss, Bruce Nix, the Director of Individual Income Tax for the Department of Revenue, said this is the first time in his 21 years with the department of revenue that he can recall that a revenue employee may have saved the life of a taxpayer.

Brown, a Frankfort native, started working for the department in August 2009, just a few months after graduating from Morehead State University. Brown said Friday that she loves her job and she truly believes that state employees are there to help the public.

"We will help you any way that we can, even if it's calling 911," Brown said. "I feel like it was fate that I happened to lose (Phillips' phone number) and I'm glad that I found it when I did."

Gov. Steve Beshear praised Brown's dedication Friday.

"I have always said that our state employees are an excellent, hard-working group, and Natalie proves it," Beshear said. "I offer her my thanks and congratulations for a job truly well done."

Oh, and did Phillips ever get that tax question answered?

"Yes, I did," Phillips said Friday.

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