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Nevada County man reunited with first responders who saved his life

Victoria Penate
Special to The Union

After experiencing cardiac arrest while in his home in February, John Brodbeck celebrated a full recovery by meeting with the emergency personnel who had responded to his 911 call.

Brodbeck, a retired firefighter, responded to many instances of cardiac arrest during his career. He said this experience deepens his appreciation of the work this group of Nevada County first responders did to save his life.

“What happened here, the odds were extreme,” said Brodbeck. “They did everything perfectly, and if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have survived.”

He describes having lost consciousness before they arrived at his home, while he was on the phone with Cal Fire 911 communications operator Kathy Pitts.

“We never leave a caller alone if they have any kind of difficulty breathing or chest pain, so I went down the protocol we are licensed to do and monitored the symptoms,” said Pitts. “I wanted him to know that somebody was there who cared on the other end of the line.”

“When we started up the driveway, we got notified from dispatch that he was no longer responsive, so we then kicked it into high gear. That was one of the biggest things, that the dispatcher was able to notify us early,” said Nevada County Consolidated Fire District captain Jason Davison.

This accelerated response was critical. Brodbeck said his doctor described the chances of surviving cardiac arrest while alone as 1 in 25, adding that the chance of brain damage increases steeply every passing minute without a heartbeat — a state he was in for approximately 20 minutes.

Brodbeck shared that he has made a full recovery with no known damage to his heart or brain.

“Knowing that, and knowing how critical that whole event was, we had to say ‘thank you,’” he said. “I’m extremely thankful for what everyone did.”

AN EMOTIONAL REUNION

“It was the most miraculous call in a long time,” said Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital paramedic Jessica Farmer. “There are people who survive CPR, but often have to go through years of physical therapy or heavy medication, and he is walking and talking.”

Farmer said Brodbeck reached out to her as well as hospital emergency medical technician Kevin Murphy, the ambulance team on the scene of his call, in March to express his thanks. They planned to organize a reunion soon after, but postponed these plans out of caution regarding COVID-19, eventually setting a date for June 17.

“It was amazing,” said Farmer. “What we have to remind ourselves is, I do this several times every day, but for the patient it is one huge event in their life. So it means a lot to hold on to a family like that, remember them, and probably keep in touch for years to come.”

Murphy echoed this sentiment, saying, “This amazing outcome is why we do all our training, and why we love our jobs.”

“I’ve never in 13 years been reunited with someone we brought back by CPR,” Murphy said. “It was very emotional for everyone, and a lot of tears of joy were shed.”

“It was a wonderful experience to be able to see that the chain of survival and the EMS system had paid dividends by bringing him back,” said Davison, reflecting on the reunion which took place at Station 89. Nevada County Consolidated firefighter Dane Shideler and firefighter intern Kyle Bryant were also a part of the fire team which responded to Brodbeck’s February call, and were present at this reunion.

“As dispatchers, we don’t have the opportunity to see the faces to go with the voice, and very rarely do we know what the ending of their situation is,” said Pitts. “To be able to meet him and give him a hug, and to talk to his wife and mom, was something that will last my whole life.”

As a gesture of his appreciation, Brodbeck presented the teams with heart-shaped plaques decorated with the “Thin Red Line” American flag pattern which represents firefighters and other first responders.

“They’re excellent people who did their jobs perfectly, and we’re fortunate to have such outstanding medical service in the area from these people and their agencies,” said Brodbeck.

Victoria Penate is a freelance writer with The Union.


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