Nothing felt out of the ordinary for Cliff Frazier on Sunday, Aug. 28.
He woke up around 7 a.m., turned on the television to watch the news and made himself a cup of coffee.
Frazier wanted to get outside before it got to warm to work on the roof of his patio at his home on Tully Road in Acampo, which he was in the process of renovating, as it was in need of repair.
After some breakfast and a shower, Frazier headed out, hammer in hand.
Around 10 a.m., Frazier’s wife shouted as she walked out the door that she was heading to the market down the road and would be back soon.
All alone, Frazier continued to work on the patio, pulling nails out of beams and adding new wooden planks in where old ones needed to be replaced.
But then Frazier felt a sharp pain in his chest.
He grabbed at his left side, right on top of his heart.
The pain intensified and Frazier, who had a history of heart problems, knew exactly what was happening.
He was having a heart attack.
Bleary-eyed from the intense stabbing in his chest, he somehow made it to the phone and dialed 911.
‘I’m checking out’
Firefighters Mike Taormina, Danny Hausauer and Capt. Rob Engel were settling in to what had been a quiet morning at the Clements Fire Department on Mackville Road in Clements.
The scanner beeped, and a voice said a man four miles away was experiencing chest pains. The Clements Fire Department was asked to head out to Tully Road, along with American Medical Response paramedics.
Responding to emergency medical service calls is routine for the firefighters, and they packed up their engine and headed out.
“You prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Hausauer said. “And we experienced the worst.”
When the firefighters reached Frazier’s home, Frazier was slumped over in the doorway, still on the phone with the 911 operator.
Taormina took the lead, running over to Frazier and talking to him, asking him questions while Hausauer and Engel worked with the paramedics to get emergency medical supplies ready to treat Frazier.
But suddenly, something went very wrong.
Frazier’s heart stopped.
He grabbed Taormina’s hand.
“I’m checking out,” he said, and crumpled in Taormina’s arms.
‘He was clinically dead’
Clements firefighters and AMR paramedics went into emergency mode.
Though they had initially tried CPR, it was not doing the job. So they loaded Frazier into the ambulance and took off for Lodi Memorial Hospital.
In the 14 minutes it took to get from Acampo to Lodi, paramedics not only started an IV with medication for Frazier’s heart, they tried three separate times to jumpstart it with a defibrillator.
Beep ... beep ... nothing.
His heartbeat would momentarily blip on the heart monitor, paramedic David Durand said, before it would trail off and they would have to wait two minutes to try again.
Beep ... beep ... still nothing.
“He was clinically dead,” Durand said.
Once at the hospital, doctors had to try four more times to get Frazier’s heart to start.
Though he was finally stabilized, he was put into a medically-induced coma. His body had just suffered too much in one day.
He was not expected to live through the night.
‘There were no words ...’
Last week, department Fire Chief Dave Ingrum said a man came to the station, asking where he might find the men who responded to an EMS call on Tully Road in August.
Ingrum said he could not tell the man much because the only information he had on Frazier was hearsay.
“Oh, that’s OK,” the man said. “I’m Cliff.”
Ingrum gathered those who had responded to Frazier’s home in August. No one recognized him.
Thinner and without his usual mustache, Frazier had done the impossible. He had survived.
“There were no words to describe what it was like seeing him standing there in front of me,” Taormina said.
To celebrate the firefighters’ and paramedics’ heroic efforts, a ceremony was held at the fire department Thursday, and Frazier was able to personally thank everyone who helped him that morning in August.
After placing “CPR Saves” pins on each person who helped to save him, Frazier, his hazel eyes glistening behind his gold glasses, could not help but also give each responder a giant hug.
“I died when I was 59 and was alive to celebrate my 60th (birthday),” Frazier said. “I don’t know how to thank you all enough.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.