John’s Story: Firefighter Recognizes the Signs

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Firefighter John Center was dispatched to a motor vehicle accident with multiple injuries. Over the course of that call, he noticed an unusual feeling in his chest and lower throat.

“It was kind of like a balloon that was slowly inflating. It was nothing that I had ever felt before, so I was moderately concerned about it at that point but we had other activities going on.

“Once everyone at the scene was taken care of and I watched our last ambulance pull out of the city that we had available at that time. The only ones left at that point were myself and the engine driver, because we had to send the other firefighters with the additional squads because there were multiple injuries.

“During the course of cleaning up the scene, I pulled him aside and said, ‘Don’t panic or anything but I’m having chest pain and I don’t think it’s anything minor. It feels like it’s something really different.’

“He jokingly said, ‘What do you think you are having a heart attack or what?’ and I said, ‘You know, I’m really not sure.’

“Station 61 was only two blocks from where the scene was so I said, ‘I’ll meet you up there.’

“I got in my vehicle and went up to the fire-station where he met me. We did a 12-lead in the office and it said confirmed myocardial infarction, which is when we realized that I was having a heart attack.

Calling in Rapid Transportation

“We had no ambulances in the city available at that time, and a mutual aid squad would have taken awhile to get there. It was rush hour traffic and the paramedic that was caring for me was concerned that I might not make a trip that was going to be lengthy. He thought the helicopter would be a good idea to get me somewhere where I could get definitive care quickly.

“They called CareFlight. My care was transferred over to them at that point and they flew me to Miami Valley Hospital. I wanted to go to a place where the sickest people go, and I know the level of care that Miami Valley delivers.

“That’s why we send our sick people there. I just remember laying on the cot on my back with a lot of people standing over me and a lot of stuff going on and getting loaded in to the copter. I don’t recall taking off. I don’t recall the landing. I don’t recall feeling like I was flying.”

Centers says it was a very smooth transition getting from Monroe to Dayton. “I remember that the nurse that was sitting above me at my head, held my hand the whole time. It was surreal, it was nice.”

There were a lot of calls from Centers’ fire station to Miami Valley while they were doing his care. Also, there was communication between the aircraft and the emergency department to let them know what they are bringing in, what treatment modalities that they will have to put in place when they get there.

“It just seemed like 20 people, all of them knowing exactly what they had to do and trying to squeeze in to get their stuff done because everything is important to each individual person that’s in there as far as their treatment goes. It was just very comforting to have that many people that were that concerned with your well-being and knew what they were doing. It was very well scripted as though they had done it a million times before and just very, very smooth.”

Experiencing Trauma Care From the Other Side

Centers has worked as a firefighter for 24 years and treated and arranged transport for “literally hundreds and hundreds of people that were in the same condition as I was that day. You don’t really appreciate what people are going through until you are laying on that cot, looking up in the air.

“It was just a very controlled atmosphere as though it was designed to do exactly what they were doing for me at that point. I imagine it is like that for everybody that gets transported. You get in there and it’s like they set this up for me today for exactly what I have going on whether it be a traumatic or cardiac event or anything else that you come in contact with.

“Having transported so many people to the Valley during my 20 years at Monroe, I knew that that’s where I wanted to come. This is where I wanted to be.”

Centers had four blockages in his right coronary artery.

“They stented three of those and discharged me, I think it was on the fifth day. I was off work for about three and a half months and started back in early March. The nurses I had upstairs were all so phenomenal, just absolutely phenomenal.”

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