I dropped dead on Friday, Oct. 29, 2004, at approximately 1409 hours while working as the incident commander at an apartment fire in West Seattle. Only by the grace of God, quick work by Seattle firefighter/EMTs and firefighter/paramedics, and the miracles of modern medicine am I alive today to talk...
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As the firefighters on scene describe it, I had the radio up to my face and then stumbled a few steps backward. I fell flat on my back onto a small grassy strip between the concrete sidewalk and curb. Layefsky was standing between two parked cars next to the curb and I landed right in front of him. Brian Paterik, the driver on Engine 37, was about 10 steps away when he heard the thud. It was so loud that he thought someone had jumped from a second-floor window. Rick Colombi, the Engine 36 driver, was talking to me when I dropped like a rock. He said it all happened in a nano-second, my eyes rolled back in my head, I collapsed, my face turned blue and I had the look of a dead man.
My heart had gone into ventricular fibrillation and I was in cardiac arrest. I was clinically dead with no pulse and no respirations. Layefsky's partner, Jeff Jinka, made a mad dash to the Medic One unit to retrieve the medic kits, while the firefighter/EMTs got the aid kit, ventilation kit and defibrillator from Engine 11. Layefsky directed the show and the firefighters started CPR immediately and hooked me up to the defibrillator.
I appreciate the crews not cutting off my foul-weather coat, as it was a battalion chief promotion gift from Recruit Class 86 and the members of Training Division in November 2001. I'm also glad they didn't cut off my uniform shirt, even though all the buttons were gone when I got it back. As I understand things, it is also good that the fire was just about extinguished because everyone except 11's was now outside the fire building tending to me like a flock of seagulls over a fresh pile of fish.
As amazing as it may sound, these firefighter/EMTs and paramedics took care of business and gave my life back to me all in the course of about four minutes! This is a tribute to the organization, training and dedication of all the people associated with Medic One; Doctors Cobb and Copass, the physicians, nurses, technicians and attendants in the emergency room, the Seattle firefighter/paramedics and Seattle firefighters, all of whom are EMT certified.
After a couple of minutes of CPR, the defibrillator analyzed my condition and recommended, "Shock Advised." It built up an electrical charge and the "Shock" button was depressed. I received one shock, which I did not feel. The EKG went from VF to a more-or-less normal rhythm.
From the moment of seeing the blackest-black I had ever seen, the next thing I remember was feeling a blast of cool, clean, crisp air being forced into my mouth and lungs. It felt terrific. I recall thinking, "Man, this is really, really refreshing!" Then another blast came rushing into my lungs and I'll bet I was smiling because it felt so good. I opened my eyes and saw all of the firefighters looking down at me and the edge of the bag mask over my nose. Somehow, I knew that I had just had the big one.
Tommy Nelson, a giant of a man working on 36's that day, was yelling at me to wake up and said that he heard me say that I had the big one. I asked someone else what happened and he said I collapsed, but that I would be OK. Then I raised my head and saw Rob Jacobowitz, a young firefighter who was a member of Recruit Class 86 and someone I had been teasing mercilessly since he got off probation. I took a special liking to him for some goofy reason and I think he also gets a kick out of all the attention I give him. I said, "Is that you, Jacobowitz?" And he replied, "Yes." Then I put my head back down and cracked wise saying, "Oh "expletive" me." He looked up at Layefsky and said, "He's got his eyes open, he's talking and he's coming around, I mean he is really coming around!"
Layefsky looked down at me and said, "OK, Dave, if you can talk, then you can breathe. So start breathing or I'll tube you, and you know me, I'll tube you!" That's when I thought to myself, "Oh man, now I have to go to work and start breathing on my own." I can't believe that I actually thought breathing was work, but I did. It took me a few tries before I figured it out and started breathing on my own. Fortunately, I've been able to keep it up ever since.
I remember the crews putting me on a backboard and onto the stretcher, then loading me into the medic unit. I had my eyes closed most of the time because I was very tired. At one point, I was asked to hold my hands together and I worked to accomplish it, as they were unusually weak. I felt lightheaded and slightly dizzy, although fully aware of my surroundings and what was happening around me. I was alert, oriented and perfectly capable of passing on information needed for the medical report, a Form 20-B. I was in no pain and had no discomfort as a result of CPR or the defibrillator shock.