Joan Bulshey, on the left, presented certificates to Dr. Thomas Michaelman and nurse Tracy Martin for saving her life.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Joan Bulshey was on her way to a routine doctor's appointment last December.
She started sweating and was confused; her daughter, behind the wheel, noticed something was wrong.
Her daughter changed directions and pulled up outside of the Berkshire Medical Center emergency room and yelled to nearby emergency medical technicians.
"I think my mother's heart has stopped."
BMC nurses rushed out of the building, took Bulshey into the hospital by wheelchair, and for five minutes performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Bulshey's pulse returned to normal. They administered atropine and a Dopamine infusion. Then they took her to the operating room for a new pacemaker.
On Friday night, Bulshey stood in front of large crowd of emergency responders to present an award to the three BMC staff members who saved her life — Tracy Martin, Jay Ribbel and Dr. Thomas Michaelman.
The Save Award is given out by the Emergency Medical Services Corp. of Berkshire County. EMSCO annually presents awards to responders throughout the county for saving people's lives. On Friday, 25 responders took home awards for successes over the last year.
"It is always heartwarming to reflect on all the great things you do," said Brian Andrews, president of EMSCO.
The ceremony is part of the nonprofit's EMT week celebration, and includes the annual EMS exposition at the Berkshire Mall on Sunday. The dinner and award ceremony is intended to give the responders a time to reflect on the year.
"It's been a year of challenges," Andrews said, particularly in North County with the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital and then a subsequent crashing of two radio communications towers. And there was a transition in the field from state certification to national registry. But, "we survived" it, Andrews said.
Despite those challenges, stories of heroism that shine through.
In July, a 52-year-old woman began choking when eating at a Lenox resort. Lenox firefighters found her going in an out of consciousness and struggling to breathe and began abdominal thrusts for her to cough up the food stuck in her airway.
County Ambulance arrived and continued with oxygen and IVs and the woman returned to stable condition. Lenox firefighters William Colvin, Scott Forbes, Alfred Lafave, Jason Miller, Chris Prew, Jason Saunders and Dan Sheehan were presented an award for that save while County Ambulance EMTs Mary Andrews and David Carpenter were recognized for their efforts.
A crew of Lenox firefighters were honored for saving a choking woman.
In June, the Pittsfield Fire Department and County Ambulance Service responded to an 86-year-old man who had fallen and was unresponsive. He was in cardiac arrest and there was a "no shock advised" order.
Ambulance crews ontinually worked on him all the way to Berkshire Medical Center and on the way, he began to breathe on his own. Lt. John Jackson and firefighters John Ricci and Larry Pularo were presented Save Awards for their efforts and County Ambulance EMTS Mary Andrews, David Carpenter, Kathleen Bairer and George Litourneau were recognized.
In August, the two departments responded to a 73-year-old woman who also was unresponsive. After an array of treatments, she opened her eyes and began to ask questions. She too was taken to Berkshire Medical Center and was discharged days later. County Ambulance EMTs Mary Andrews and David Carpenter were presented awards for that save.
Those are the stories EMSCO highlighted Friday night, but Vice President Shawn Godfrey said there are plenty more that the organization doesn't know about.
Thomas Grady of the Berkshire County sheriff's department said he knows how caring and compassionate EMTs are because he sees at the jail when they transport patients. Just a few weeks ago, EMTs were called to aid Sheriff Thomas Bowler.
"Thought that whole process, everyone showed compassion and caring," Grady said of the response. "One week doesn't do justice to what you do."