Man Saved by NKFD Meets Firefighters

John “Jack” Wilson (front holding NKFD shirt) stopped by the New Knoxville Fire Department on Monday night to meet the volunteers who saved his life on Jan. 21. Wilson is pictured with various members of the fire department.
Staff Writer

According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), approximately 395,000 cases of cardiac arrest occur outside of a hospital setting every year, in which less than 6% survive. On Jan. 21, the New Knoxville Fire Department responded to just such a case.

On Monday night, their miracle — 54-year-old John “Jack” Wilson — walked through the front door of the fire department to shake hands with the men and women who saved his life on that January evening.

“I came up here for my mother’s 80th birthday and I finished it off with a heart attack. But I am a success story because of you people here and what you do,” Wilson said, filled with emotion.

“We don’t get this very often,” said New Knoxville Fire Chief Jerry Merges. “This is a true honor for us to actually be able to see somebody that went through what (Jack) did.”

During the original call for help, the New Knoxville Fire Department was dispatched to the parking lot of First Church of New Knoxville at 7:58 p.m. for a report of a man possibly having a seizure. Within a minute, Firefighter/EMR John Pfenning responded directly to the scene, which happens to be just across the street from his house.

That fast response saved Wilson’s life that evening.

An article from the NAS states that decreasing the time between cardiac arrest onset and the first chest compression is critical and the likelihood of surviving decreases by 10% with every passing minute between collapse and return of spontaneous circulation.

In the time it would have taken for St. Marys EMS to arrive on scene — without New Knoxville — Wilson’s survivability would have dropped from 90% to about 30%.

After he was transported to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, Wilson was flown by air ambulance to Lima before being transferred again by air to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. There he received double bypass surgery to divert vital blood flow around the two blockages around his heart.

While Wilson doesn’t remember much of the day the incident happened, the Denver resident and New Knoxville native said he remembers noticing some shortness of breath about a week before during one of his regular half-mile walks. He said the doctors told him there had been a minor incident prior to January’s cardiac arrest and he thinks that little bit of discomfort may have been the first sign that something was wrong.

Whether there were warning signs or not, one thing is for sure — Wilson is part of an exclusive group and the father of three credits his life to the everyday heroes who responded to help him.