San Jose Firefighter Awakens After Heart Attack

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Frank Ryan, the San Jose firefighter who had a heart attack at the scene of a cathedral fire last week, opened his eyes and asked to see a close friend around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to fire officials.

"We know he woke up and asked for one of his friends who had been spending nights at the ICU," said fire Capt. Mary Gutierrez. "He recognized his buddy, and his friend realized pretty quickly that Frank was alert."

Gutierrez said it is not known at this point how long Ryan, 41, will remain in the hospital, but she said Tuesday's news brought an "incredible sense of relief" to fellow firefighters who have been maintaining a vigil at Regional Medical Center since Ryan was admitted Thursday after collapsing outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in downtown San Jose.

Gutierrez said Ryan was fortunate to be surrounded by his friends and colleagues who were able to immediately begin CPR and other lifesaving procedures.

"We were right there for him, and it made all the difference in the world," she said. "For the people who were involved in saving his life, this news is even more incredible."

She said that 20 to 30 firefighters have been holding vigil at the intensive care unit waiting room, some spending the night there on cots.

Heart attacks are a "hidden reality" for firefighters, Gutierrez said, and can be triggered by stress and heat on the job.

"It's a danger that you don't see or think about every day," she


Ryan is a 15-year veteran of the fire department.

The fire was reported at 11:22 a.m. Thursday by multiple callers who saw heavy smoke coming out of the cathedral's steeple section.

Sunday services were held in a small hall of the church's school. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

Copyright 2012 - San Jose Mercury News

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