Firefighters honored for saving 76-year-old woman

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 6, 2013

ROCHESTER — When firefighters and paramedics from the Rochester Fire Department dropped Marilynn Niemiec off at the emergency room Dec. 14, they didn’t expect to see her again.

While swimming the at the Older Persons’ Commission just a half hour earlier, Niemiec, 76, went into full cardiac arrest. The OPC staff started CPR, and the Rochester Fire Department responded to the 911 call for help at approximately 7:45 a.m.

“The Fire Department’s Emergency Response Team found a lady at the poolside who was not breathing; her heart was not beating properly,” Fire Chief John Cieslik said. “Had they not intervened, sudden cardiac death would have occurred.”

Niemiec, of Shelby Township, was lucky enough to be sitting in the audience at the Rochester City Council meeting Jan. 28, when the people who helped save her life were recognized.

“I’m just forever grateful that they were there. They gave me a new lease on life because they worked very hard,” said Niemiec.

One by one, Chris Coe, Dave Zaccagnini, Sam Beckner, Kelly Pittenger, John Shepp, Geoff Ostling and Anthony Maggio — all of the Rochester Fire Department — were presented with Life Saving awards.

Cieslik said the team worked together to intubate the patient, start an IV, continue CPR and properly transport her to the hospital.

“It was very intense in what went on there. … We shocked our patient eight times to try to get her back into sinus rhythm. On the eighth time, they were successful, and within 24 minutes, the patient was at the hospital, with improving signs of blood pressure, her heart beating and she was starting to breathe on her own. A tremendous amount of work was done in that 24 minutes, and because of that, a life was saved,” Cieslik said.

Firefighter/paramedic Coe said Niemiec gave her and the other responders quite a scare.

“I didn’t think when we left the ER that day that I would ever see her or speak to her again — we didn’t expect her to make it through the night. I didn’t expect to have a conversation with her a few days later, and I certainly didn’t expect her to walk into the fire station a few weeks back.”

Since then, Coe said, she talks to Niemiec — who lives in Shelby Township — quite often.

“I think I’ve gained a lifelong friend. I’m amazed at her progress, and I’m very honored to celebrate the life of my good friend,” she added.

Cieslik noted that the Rochester City Council is also directly responsible for saving Niemiec’s life, since they allowed the Fire Department to begin providing Advanced Life Support service three years ago.

“We wouldn’t be here now if we weren’t providing that service, because we would have waited 15 or 20 minutes for a private ambulance to have gotten there,” Cieslik said.

This is the second life the Rochester Fire Department has saved since the inception of the service.