OSWEGO, NY – Usually, a nice card and a box of candy will suffice as a thank you for postal carriers, trash collectors and many others for their services.
But, how do you express your gratitude to someone who saved your life?
For Jim Favata, he had to meet them in person, look them in the eye and shake their hands.
On September 9, the Oswego Fire Department responded to a “man down” call at Lowe’s on State Route 104 East on Oswego.
Upon arrival, they found a 56-year-old man unresponsive.
Advanced life support was started as well as CPR.
After much medical care as well as rehab, last week a healthy Favata came to the Eastside Fire Station wanting to meet and thank the people who saved his life, including one of the responders who personally knows the patient from growing up in Oswego, according to Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie.
They arranged a special luncheon on Wednesday afternoon for the meeting.
Favata and members of his family received a warm welcome from all the firefighters.
“I really don’t remember anything from that day. I guess I was walking out of Lowe’s, had my dog (a Pomeranian named ‘Maggie’) in the shopping cart, and I started having a rapid heart beat. Then it stopped and I guess I went down,” he said.
He was resuscitated and didn’t suffer any brain damage, he added.
“Everybody says it was a miracle,” he said. “I’m very happy that Oswego Fire Department got there in time.”
He was in a coma for seven days. The first thing he said when he woke up was that he wanted to meet the first responders who saved him.
Favata said nothing like this had ever happened to him before.
He was rushed to Oswego Hospital and then transferred to University Hospital in Syracuse. He had a pacemaker and a defibrillator put in.
“He just had an attack where his heart began to beat really fast. He doesn’t even remember going to Lowe’s,” his wife, Chris, said. “He doesn’t remember the day before.”
“I have a new outlook on life,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy the rest of my life that I have. They gave me a second chance. Again, I’m grateful to the EMTs that saved my life.”
The family estimates it took about six minutes for crews to get across town to assist.
Four of the five responders were on hand Wednesday to greet the Favatas.
Chris said she was at work (at JC Penny) that day.
“When I went home for lunch a couple hours before (the attack), he was fine. He was working in our kitchen, re-doing it, and he was fine; said he was going to go cut the grass. Apparently he did after I left,” she said.
Then, around supper time, she got the call at work regarding his attack.
“I just flew right to the hospital,” she said. “Got there about the same time as the ambulance did.”
It was weird because she was at work and he was at home, she noted.
“For some reason, he got in the car and went to Lowe’s,” she said. “If he didn’t, he would have been home alone and that would have been the end because I wouldn’t have been home for another hour and a half. He would have been definitely gone by then.”
He said they showed him what he had bought at Lowe’s – a gas valve and cable.
“Something we really didn’t need quite yet,” Chris added. “We did need it. But not then.”
“We found him on the ground, not breathing. We gave him some medications, performed CPR and got him to the hospital,” said Firefighter Bryan Easton, one of the first responders.
“By the time we loaded him into the ambulance his pulse was back,” said Firefighter Don LaBarge, another first responder. “By the time we got to the hospital, he was breathing on his own. The longer you go without breathing, the longer you go without your heart circulating blood, so your chances of survival are low.”
This is just another call for the EMTs?
“No, not really,” Easton said. We don’t see this all the time. This case had the best outcome.”
OFD received the call just after shift change, LaBarge said, adding “I had just come on duty.”
Favata’s cousin, who had also been at Lowe’s that day, “started to drive away, looked in his mirror and saw that Jim was down. So he parked, got back out. At that point there were already people around Jim. His cousin’s wife took the dog and took her to her house. She stayed there overnight and my daughter went and got her the next morning,” Chris explained.
“I still think that she knows he was gone or whatever. Because, when he came home two weeks later, when he came in the door she barked at him like she didn’t know who he was,” Chris continued. “It was really weird. I think she probably thought that he wasn’t coming back.”
“Everything went just right; it all fell into place, from the training to the call. To have this kind of outcome stands out. This is what they call a ‘save.’ It doesn’t always work out this way. To have this kind of success is awesome. It’s awesome for them, it’s awesome for the family, it’s awesome for the guys. It’s just really good,” the chief said. “I’m happy for them. They’ve done a great job. They all do and this is like a great reward to be able to have this family come in and have lunch with you.”
If he didn’t go to Lowe’s, he may have been home by himself and it’s not a witnessed arrest so that changes everything, the chief added.
Chances of survival are usually very low if a patient isn’t breathing on their own, Capt. Dave Engle said.
“We were fortunate here that CPR was started early enough that the time was able to be minimized. But this is still an extremely rare case and extremely gratifying. It is good to know that all the time and training that these guys put in has a successful outcome. We seldom see these kinds of outcomes,” he said.