First responders thanked personally by one they saved

An emergency call made a return visit Oct. 1 to Fire Station 1 on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to thank first responders for their life-saving work.

The subject of that previous emergency call was a relaxed and smiling Ken Wright from the Defense Contract Management Agency Dayton office at Wright-Patterson.

He was accompanied to the fire station by two co-workers, his wife, Sandra, and his commander. Awaiting him were a combined team of Wright-Patterson Fire Department personnel and two emergency medical technicians from the 88th Medical Operations Squadron, each of whom responded to Wright’s heart attack earlier this year.

“I want to thank everyone here,” Wright told the assembled first responders. “I don’t remember a lot of the events of that day, but I’ll never forget that day – June 26th. They said at the hospital that I had a ‘widow-maker’ heart attack and if it hadn’t been for the grace of God and the quick action of everyone here, I wouldn’t be here today. I appreciate it, and it means a lot to me. So thank you,” he told the assembled first responders.

Wright spoke with each of the first responders, shook their hands and posed for pictures with them beside the Rescue 15.

The situation was far more tense when Wright initially met them on June 26.

It was a normal Wednesday morning for Wright. The DCMA lead price/cost analyst was responding to customer calls and juggling assignments when he noticed something wasn’t quite right.

“I could feel my blood pressure going up, and I remember I had to take a nitroglycerin pill right then and I thought ‘Something is just odd,’” he said. “So I took a nitro and the phone calls continued, but the pill didn’t have any effect. So I took a second nitro, and I remember getting off the phone and feeling I was in crisis mode. I walked over to the deputy commander’s office and I told him, ‘I think I’m having a heart attack’ and wanted to collapse right there on the floor.

“But he told me to go lay down on the couch in the commander’s office. So I ended up on the couch and the next thing I know there were 10 people there working on me. I remember some of the details, but not everything,” Wright said.

His coworkers placed the 911 call and help came from Fire Station 1, which is less than two blocks from Wright’s building. The base’s emergency responders were heavily tasked at the moment, but the dispatcher supervisor, Cory Downey, was quick in finding the capability to respond.

Assistant Chief Bryan Weeks, a paramedic, and Assistant Chief Joe Ruhe, an emergency medical technician, were dispatched to Bldg. 30, only knowing they had a male patient experiencing chest pains. A ladder truck with additional personnel and equipment were also dispatched.

When they arrived on scene, the firefighters started talking with Wright to learn what had happened so far, started running diagnostics and began treatment.

An ambulance from the Wright-Patterson Medical Center was quickly on scene with Senior Airmen Josh Lynn and Stephen Cotto-Nunez from the 88th MDOS.

When Lynn and Cotto-Nunez arrived, they realized that Wright was grey and ashen and sweating, which are all typical signs of a massive heart attack.

“Our electrocardiogram revealed that he was having the worst type of heart attack he could possibly have,” said Lynn. “So we immediately administered nitro to him. He already had IVs in place; so we called ahead to Soin Medical Center and placed a report that we had a patient having a massive heart attack and we’d be there as soon as possible.”

They immediately got Wright into the ambulance and continued treatment enroute to the medical center.

“It’s amazing that he’s here today. We honestly did not expect a good outcome for him just with the circumstances, so it’s a miracle that he’s here,” said Lynn.

What followed was an immediate surgery for Wright, having one artery that was 100 percent blocked and a second artery that was 90 percent blocked.

“They told me it was a ‘life-saving surgery’ and a month later, on July 25, I had a second surgery to fix another blockage, which was 85 percent blocked,” said Wright. “I’ve never smoked and never drank; so they said this was unusual that they’d see someone like me with four blockages.”

Wright was also a runner, having completed a marathon and a 10K race in April with his daughter, just two months before the heart attack.

“I don’t think I’d have run that if I’d have known what was in store for me on June 26th,” Wright said.

As part of his recovery, Wright has made a number of changes, including a return to exercising, eliminating snacking and trying to not let stress get to him.

“I’ve lost 30 pounds since the heart attack,” Wright said. “I have definitely changed to a heart-healthy diet, and I’m in a heart rehab course right now.”

Wright made his return to work Aug. 5. On that first day back, he visited Fire Station 1 to thank the first responders who saved his life. Because of multiple schedules, Wright and the Fire Department rescheduled the visit for a day that most of the responders would be available, which was Oct. 1.

“We don’t get to see that every day,” said Cotto-Nunez, 88 MDOS. “We don’t get to see people letting us know that they made it past that trip to the hospital. It just feels good to know that he made it just due to the little things that we could do for him.”

Lynn added to the sentiment, noting, “We’re just thankful to get to help people every day.”

Wright-Patterson’s Fire Department answers more than 1,100 emergency calls per year. The majority of those calls are for medical assistance.

About the Author