Former Denver Post sportswriter Natalie Meisler
Former Denver Post sportswriter Natalie Meisler (Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post file)

Tim Harkins was in his office at the University of Wyoming and making a routine phone call at 11:15 Wednesday morning.

Natalie Meisler, a former Denver Post sportswriter for 35 years covering college athletics, was seeking information from Harkins, Wyoming's associate athletic director for media relations, for a story she was writing on the Mountain West Conference for a national college football publication.

It turned out to be anything but a routine call.

"We had talked for a minute or two when Natalie said to hold on because she had to grab something," Harkins said by phone Thursday. "When she came back to the phone, I couldn't understand her. She was having trouble forming words. That's when it hit me. I thought I had a pretty good idea what was happening."

Meisler was having a massive stroke. Harkins, whose father had a stroke when Tim was younger, and assistant Amy Dambro quickly were thrust into hectic activity.

Harkins knew Meisler lived in Boulder, but that was about it. He put Dambro on the phone with Meisler. They could hear her breathing, but she wasn't talking.

Harkins raced into action. He first called Dave Plati, his counterpart at the University of Colorado. Meisler covered CU sports for a stint during her time at The Post, but Plati wasn't available.

Knowing that Meisler also covered Colorado State, he next tried CSU associate AD Gary Ozzello.

Time was becoming an issue.

"When I reached Gary, he said he didn't think he had Natalie's address, but he'd look," Harkins said. "I didn't know what we were going to do next. He found an address in his files."

Harkins called the Boulder police department. The dispatcher kept him on the line, hoping that by calling Meisler's home phone number, Dambro might hear the phone ringing over the line connected to Meisler's cell phone. The phone ringing wasn't audible.

"A few minutes after that, the police started knocking at the door," Harkins said. "Amy could hear that and we quickly relayed the information that the police were at the right house. It was lucky that everything fell into place."

Meisler, who took a buyout from The Post in November 2011, was rushed to Boulder Community Hospital in serious condition. As of Thursday afternoon, she had improved greatly and was upgraded to stable condition.

Irv Moss: 303-954-1296, imoss@denverpost.com