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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For a short time, a couple of minutes or just a few seconds, I cannot remember, it was quiet and I was alone with my thoughts. I prayed to God that if He was going to take me this day to please forgive my sins because I really wanted to go to heaven. On the other hand, I continued, since You let me be resuscitated, maybe You are going to let me live. If so, You let me know what You want me to do with this life of mine and consider it done!
Jinka drove the medic unit and Layefsky was accompanied in the back by Tony (Lasagna) Leseigne, who was riding Aid 14 that day. The other member of Aid 14, Mike Milner, drove that rig up to Harborview Medical Center (HMC) to meet up with Leseigne. I felt at ease and comfortable knowing that I was in good hands.
We arrived at Harborview, our regional trauma center and home to Medic One, and I was wheeled into the emergency room. Having ridden Aid 2 and Aid 25 in years past, I knew the drill. A bunch of doctors, nurses and technicians gathered around me, all seemingly talking at the same time and carrying on like a gaggle of geese. They had me stripped down, wired for sound, bloods drawn, X-rayed and you name it in no time. These people really know what they are doing, they are some of the best of the best.
Assistant Chief of Operations A.D. Vickery was waiting for me in the ER. I asked him to contact my buddies Lieutenant Bob Myers and Captain Preston Bhang and have one or both of them pick up my wife, Janna. I gave him Janna's cell phone number and asked him to call her. All he calmly said to her was that I collapsed at a fire and that I was OK, and he had our friend Bob Myers on his way over to pick her up.
She figured I just got smoked up a little and didn't get too terribly shook up. As it turns out, this was a very good thing. Had she known right off that I had gone into cardiac arrest and was given CPR, as she found out later at the hospital, she may have gotten into a wreck driving from where she was back home to where Bob planned to pick her up. At the hospital, she had SFD friends and doctors to support her when she was told exactly what happened to me.
After the ER examination and preliminary work up, I was wheeled down to the basement and the cath lab. An angiogram was performed and showed that I had some clogged coronary arteries. The diagnosis was simple, I was to undergo a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), otherwise known as open heart surgery.
On the way back up to the ER, the nurse asked me if I was ready to see the crowd that was waiting for me. My wife and I have a large blended family of 13 children, with an assortment of sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law and 12 grandchildren. Two sons in their 20s popped out from a small waiting room when they saw me being wheeled down the hall. One, an electrician, kissed me on the forehead a couple of times and the other, a football player, looked like he was ready to cry any minute. They didn't know where everyone else was hanging out, which happened to be the paramedic quarters near the emergency room area, so they followed us.
The nurse wheeled me into the little ER area where I had been and then closed the curtain. I was alone for just a moment and then my wife came in. It was special that everyone allowed the two of us to have a few private minutes together. I can't remember if I said, "I'm sorry," or, "I really did it this time." I don't do crying, but I felt my eyes well up and I could see tears falling down her cheeks. It was great to be alive and the magnitude of what happened was finally starting to sink in. We hugged and kissed and just sort of looked at each other. Then she asked if I was ready for the crowd. "I am if you are," was my reply.
She opened the curtain and in they came, sons and daughters, a couple of older grandkids, firefighters of all ranks, paramedics, Chief of the Fire Department Gregory Dean, the mayor of Seattle and so on. All we needed was a keg and some chips! A much-better scenario than those times when a firefighter is badly busted up and just hanging by a thread.
Things cleared out after a short while and I was taken to a room in the cardiac intensive care unit. It was explained that I would be transferred to the University of Washington Medical Center, where I would undergo the heart bypass surgery. At 1 o'clock in the morning, Firefighter/Paramedics Chris Robinson and Matt Anderson transferred my wife and me to the UW Medical Center. I would be there until the following Friday.