Nine firefighters and paramedics were recognized Thursday morning at Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District Station 1 for restoring life to a victim on an emergency call.
Fire Chief David Bradley said the Phoenix Award is one of the most meaningful and prestigious awards in the fire service.
"The phoenix is recognized as a symbol of excellence and as a mythical bird said to rise again from its ashes," he said.
Back row, Michael Zubal, Sean Russ, Charles Butler, Matt Davis, Justin Greer, John Cook and Capt. Rich Crotty, and, front row, Sheri Vara, Craig Angel and Marcos Munoz all received the Phoenix Award during a special presentation Thursday morning at Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District Station 1.
Bradley said the Thursday ceremony was the first Phoenix Award presentation the department has done.
"Today we are honored to announce that the Matlacha/Pine Island firefighters have brought back to life one of our residents," he said.
Those recognized during the ceremony included Sean Russ, Charles Butler, Matt Davis, Justin Greer, John Cook, Captain Rich Crotty, Sheri Vara, Craig Angel and Marcos Munoz.
Engines 151, 152 and Medic 10 were dispatched to a motor vehicle accident with unknown injuries on Dec. 19, 2012. When Engine 152 arrived, they found the vehicle still running with the driver slumped over the steering wheel.
"The vehicle had apparently struck another car and came to a stop in the field," Bradley told those in the audience.
Responders on Engine 152, which was still the only one on the scene, quickly removed the patient from the vehicle for assessment when they realized he was not breathing and had no pulse.
"Engine 152 quickly started CPR and began preparations for advanced life support treatment," Bradley said. "Engine 151 and Medic 10 then arrived on scene where care was transferred to Medic 10 for rapid treatment and transport."
Since the patient was priority one, Medic 10 requested Firefighters Russ and Davis to ride into the hospital to help with ALS procedures.
"Because the patient was in cardiac arrest, an advanced airway had to be put in place and the patient had to be manually ventilated," Bradley said. "The patient was attached to the Life Pack monitor and was defibrillated, shocked, seven times while en route to the hospital. An IV was established and seven rounds of ALS medications were used while en route to the hospital as well."
He went on to tell the crowd that prior to the arrival at Cape Coral Hospital, the patient had a return of spontaneous circulation and a weak carotid pulse could be felt. The patient was rapidly transferred to the emergency room with a pulse, as well as breathing on his own upon arrival.
"That's what we are here today to celebrate," Bradley said.
He said what a lot of people do not realize is that when the firefighters and paramedics go out into the community, they are giving 200 percent of themselves.
"It's a pleasure to watch all of you work," Bradley said. "I'm proud to say you are doing it and then some."
He went on to congratulate the firefighters and paramedics who dedicate themselves to saving lives.
"When you are able to restore and truly save a life, you have given a family something they would not have without you - their husband, their father, their loved-one," Bradley said.
The firefighters and paramedics were then called to the front of the room to accept their plaque, which read, "For your outstanding commitment, dedication and efforts, your determination and abilities made it possible to save the life of a fellow human being on Dec. 19, 2012," from Bradley.
"We choose this service because we want to make a difference," he said.
The patient they saved, Michael Zubal, was also in attendance Thursday morning during the ceremony.
"I don't remember any of it," he said of the incident. "There is only so much room on the hard drive, let's not clog it up with the bad stuff."
Zubal has lived on Pine Island since 1972 and for the past 15 years has operated his business, Mike the Mechanic, for the island. He was also a volunteer for the fire department many years ago when it was comprised of mostly volunteers.
"Because of the people of the Fire Department and EMS and because of the community we are better protected here than any other place in Lee County," he said. "I really do appreciate the job they do out here. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here."
When he was released from the hospital two weeks later, he said he came home to mounds of cards he received from the community and friends he has made through his business. Three months later he went back to working.
"I feel fabulous," Zubal said. "Better than I remember feeling in quite a while."
The recovery seems miraculous; he said the doctors told him due to 40 minutes of CPR and seven times under the defibrillator.