MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. - A Nashville man is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, after suffering a stroke while hiking in a Maury County cave.
48-year-old Darrell Smith is now in stable condition.
He and a few of his friends were taking a guided tour of Miller's Cave, near Mount Pleasant.
"We were fixing to do the rest of the tour when the guy, he was standing up, and he more or less just sat down, and the girl asked him what was wrong, and we knew right then something wasn't right," said Buddy Baldwin, who owns the property on which the cave is located. "I pretty well knew instantly that he'd either had a heart attack or a stroke."
Two of Smith's friends ran to a location where they could get cell service, and called for help.
"He just - he can't talk at all, he keeps moaning and groaning, and we tried to give him a drink of water, but he couldn't drink at all," one of them tells a 911 dispatcher.
Baldwin and Smith's girlfriend stayed by his side and kept him calm.
When rescue crews arrived, it was then Baldwin's job to help guide them through the narrow crevices of the cave.
Firefighters said it was a risky operation for a number of reasons.
"Once you get into any space that's not made for human occupancy, you start worrying about an oxygen deficient atmosphere, so we're having to monitor that," said Assistant Chief Roy Brooks with the Maury County Fire Department.
Then, rescue crews had to carry Smith, slowly and carefully, back through the 1,000 foot cave and up a 300 foot cliff.
"And I will say they did an excellent job," said Baldwin. "The Maury County rescue people did an excellent job."
Darrell Smith was taken by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and, as of Wednesday, was in stable condition.
We're told family members have been by his side in the hospital.
Nearly two dozen emergency responders took part in the rescue.