First responders, including EMS personnel, police officers, doctors and dispatchers, gathered at St. Clair Shores Central Fire Station March 14 to meet James Lombardo, who passed out while driving in December because of a cardiac event.

First responders, including EMS personnel, police officers, doctors and dispatchers, gathered at St. Clair Shores Central Fire Station March 14 to meet James Lombardo, who passed out while driving in December because of a cardiac event.

Photo provided by the St. Clair Shores Fire Department


Man has opportunity to thank first responders who saved his life

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 22, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — James Lombardo was traveling down Jefferson Avenue, near 12 Mile Road, on Dec. 28 when he remembers feeling not quite right.

The 53-year-old from Macomb Township remembers that he began to breathe heavily, and then he passed out.

“Luckily, I wasn’t traveling very fast. I guess I hit the car in front of me at a stoplight, so them and people who saw it were the first ones that called 911,” he said. “They saw that I was unconscious.”

Two citizens began doing CPR on Lombardo before police arrived. The police officers used their automatic external defibrillator (AED) to try and shock Lombardo. Emergency medical services crews arrived on the scene and shocked the man five more times. They also used a “Lucas” device to do mechanical CPR. EMS personnel administered five rounds of drugs meant to help patients in cardiac arrest and finally restored circulation to Lombardo shortly before they made it to Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit.

He wasn’t out of the woods yet, though.

Doctors lost Lombardo’s pulse several times, and he ended up being shocked a total of 13 times before making it into the cath lab, where doctors put two stents in his heart.

Lombardo was awake and talking the next day and, after just a week, he walked out of the hospital.

“I guess it was just a blessing, and thank the Lord that I happened to hit somebody. I could have been driving down I-94 going 65 (mph),” he said. “The stars aligned and the grace of God was with me.”

Lombardo got a chance to thank the first responders, EMS personnel and doctors who saved his life at the St. Clair Shores Fire Department’s Central Station March 14.

St. Clair Shores EMS Coordinator Kurt Grover said that what happened to Lombardo doesn’t happen to everyone.

“For out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, survivability rate is 9 percent,” Grover said, explaining that most of those survivors are revived within just a few minutes, not the 40 it took to revive Lombardo. “For a call like this to go on this long and to have no deficits is pretty rare.

“He’s back to work. He’s living life like he was before.”

Lombardo was brought face to face with the first responders thanks to SaveMIHeart, a nonprofit organization in Michigan uniting the community, first responders, EMS systems and health systems to improve cardiac arrest survival.

“We got them all together so that way the survivor can see all these people who were critical in the chain of survival,” Grover said. “A lot of (times), responders don’t get a chance to meet the patients that they do help, and it’s kind of satisfying to see that, I think.

“As much as they don’t want to make a big deal out of this, they did take pride in it.”

They were not able to locate the bystanders who first began CPR, however, and Grover said that they played a critical part in Lombardo’s survival.

“CPR is so important for bystanders to do before we get there. (Without it) the brain has already started to die because it’s not getting enough oxygen and blood,” he said.

Lombardo said that a few days later, doctors saw there was a blockage in another artery and put a second stent in, but he was released after just six days.

He said he’s felt great since he was released.

“It was a very emotional evening, seeing them all up there, hearing all their stories. It just blew me away. My family and I are just so grateful for what they’ve done, the training that they had. Everything went into my favor, and the training that they do and how quickly they got there literally saved my life,” he said.

Lombardo said that the first responders’ efforts also had a big impact on his family. He is married and has two sons. The older son is a teacher in Anchor Bay Schools and was recently married, while the younger son has Down syndrome and survived leukemia when he was younger.

“I just don’t know how to repay for these people that did this for us,” Lombardo said. “Keeping families back together ... is just tremendous. Anytime I can thank these people, it’s just not enough.”

Police officers Trevor Head and Mark Stevelinck, and Fire Department crew members Matthew Chambers, Jacob Busacca, Kenneth Borgacz, Matthew Hanna, Derek Haarala, Ian Griffin, Robert Cook and Adam Bolan were all part of the team that worked on Lombardo, as were dispatchers Ashley Obodzinski and Lorryn Wietecha and doctors Hani Kador and Sushruth Edla.

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