Lawrence Brothers, in the middle, helped present the awards to the first responders who saved his life.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hospice Care of the Berkshires security guard Lawrence Brothers almost died on Aug. 28, 2012. But thanks to a few well-trained co-workers and local first responders, he is doing just fine.
Brothers suffered a cardiac arrest at work. Emergency services were called and police, fire and Action Ambulance personnel were rushing to respond but in the meantime, five Hospice staff members initiated CPR and mouth-to-mouth. They alternated compression and ventilation to keep blood flowing until the first responders arrived.
Police and firefighters soon arrived and shocked him with an automated external defibrillator, continued CPR and stabilized him. Action Ambulance paramedics continued treating the patient with intravenous fluids and monitoring while transporting him to Berkshire Medical Center.
Brothers was transferred to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. A few days later, he walked out of the hospital without any neurological or physical deficits.
"I would like to thank the Pittsfield Police Department, Pittsfield Fire Department, Action Ambulance and certainly those five lovely ladies at Hospice. Not only am I grateful, my family is, too," Brothers said, with tears welling up in his eyes, on Friday at the annual Emergency Medical Services of Berkshire County dinner and awards recognition.
For that "save" firefighters Ronald Clement, Christopher Apple and Mark Gingras; Police Officers Cheryl Belknap and Darren Derby; EMTs Timothy Baronas and Andrew Walker and the five Hospice employees, Jennifer Charbonneau, Ellyn Brown, Janice DiFilippo, Lori Moon and Jaclyn Sabin, were all given awards for their heroic efforts.
This year, the nonprofit recognized five occasions in the last year when emergency services made a life and death impact.
"We need to recognize the hard work of people in EMS," said EMSCO President Brian Andrews. "Often times they don't want to recognize themselves."
While the medical field is a profession, EMSCO doesn't want to downplay the impact first responders make. For 18 years, the annual dinner has recognized those leading the charge into dangerous situations.
"I look at this room and I'm in awe with what you do every day. You run into scenes that others run away from. You deal with people on the worst days of their lives," said guest speaker Maj. Tom Grady of the Berkshire County sheriff's department. "Don't sell yourselves short."
The ceremony had once been attended by only a dozen or so people but each year it has grown. This year there were more than 100 people in attendance, representing every sector of first responce — police, firefighters, EMTs and Good Samaritans.
And those "saves" weren't always while they were on the clock.
Lanesborough Deputy Chief and firefighter J.D. Hebert was driving with his daughter near the Berkshire Mall on July 29, 2012, when he saw billowing smoke in the distance. He followed it to Swan Street, where he found heavy black smoke and visible flames coming from a home and called it in.
Shannon and Shane Doolan brought their dog Tanner to the ceremony to present the award to J.D. Hebert, who saved the dog from a burning home.
With an extinguisher in hand, he went to every entrance and called out for the occupants but got no response because the family of three wasn't home at the time.
But then the neighbors told him there were pets. He forced his way in through a garage entrance and found a chocolate Labrador, Tanner, and got the dog out of the burning home.
Two others dogs died in the blaze and Tanner nearly met the same fate until Hebert forced open the door. On Friday, Shane and Shannon Doolan brought Tanner to the banquet to help present the award and thank him for his efforts.
This past March, a man working at a hardware store in North Adams collapsed and turned blue. EMTs arrived on the scene to find him without a pulse and apneic. They stabilized him and transported him to North Adams Regional Hospital, from which he was later flown to Baystate Medical Center.
The 64-year-old man underwent open heart surgery and is now doing well. EMSCO honored North Adams Ambulance Service personnel George Beckwith, Amanda Tobin, Noah Witek, Amalio Jusino, Mary Lynn Richardson and Robert Dobbert for their work on that call.
In Otis, the Rescue Squad responded to a 58-year-old man complaining of chest pains in November. They were preparing to transport him to the hospital when he had a heart attack. Responders revived him with a defibrillator shock but he quickly rearrested. Again they performed CPR and AED to revive him and met the Westfield Fire Department to transport him to Noble Hospital. He eventually was transferred to Baystate Medical Center.
A few days later, he was discharged without any neurological or physical deficits. Otis Rescue Squad member Bryan Arnold and Daniel Cawthron were honored for their work on that scene.
In May, the Pittsfield Fire Department and Action Ambulance were dispatched to a nearby medical complex for a 94-year-old female who was in cardiac arrest. They began CPR but couldn't perform AED on her. They continued to help her until she could breath on her own. She taken to Berkshire Medical Center and ultimately ended up in the ICU.
She was discharged a few days later without any further difficulties. Firefighters Elmer Gage, Wayne Ovitt and Anthony Marchetto as well as Action Ambulance EMTs Lisa Michaud and Theodor Crosby were honored for their role on that call.
EMSCO also presented six other awards.
The Hinsdale Fire Department was honored as Support Agency of the Year for building a rehabilitation vehicle to treat the first responders at calls. The incident rehab truck is now dispatched all over the region to help emergency personnel.
Raymond Ferrin was given the ALS Provider of the Year for working his way up from a Dalton Fire Explorer in 2006, earning his certification at the age of 18 in 2008 and becoming president of the Dalton Ambulance Association. He works full time for County Ambulance.
Martino Donati was given the Emergency Nurse of the Year Award. Donati was recognized for his "profound respect and appreciation for EMS" and his willingness to "go out of his way to take report or do whatever's necessary for a crew to get back into service." Donati works at North Adams Regional Hospital.
John Kirchner was presented the BLS Provider of the Year Award for more than 20 years of service. He began in 1991 when he joined the Peru Fire Department and Hinsdale Ambulance. In 1993, he started working at County Ambulance. He later became the EMSCO representative for Hinsdale and was a CPR instructor for 10 years.
Joseph Racicot was named Dispatcher of the Year for his work with the Berkshire County sheriff's office since 1998. Racicot is seen as a mentor for new dispatchers and can handle numerous call demands while remaining calm and professional at all times.
To conclude the night, EMSCO Vice President Shawn Godfrey, who presented all of the awards, snuck an additional honor past the coordinator of the event. Godfrey presented a special Outstanding Dedication to EMS Award to coordinator Judy Voll.
Voll has been coordinating the annual dinner for the last 10 years and has been working with EMS since 1990, when she began working with County Ambulance. She also has volunteered for Dalton Ambulance and recently joined the Windsor Fire Department. Additionally, Voll is a certified EMT examiner and has been a CPR instructor and EMT program teaching assistant.