The last thing Nathan Perez remembers on April 21 was eating some mac and cheese for dinner.
His dad would later tell him his eyes suddenly got wide.
“Then I just kind of keeled over,” Nate recalled. “I woke up days later in the hospital.”
When Strongsville paramedics arrived at the Perez home, Nate, 25, was in full cardiac arrest.
“He had a faint pulse,” said Lt. Tom Zinn, the first to enter the house. “He was in V-fib (ventricular fibrillation, a dangerous type of irregular heartbeat).”
Doctors still don’t know what caused Nathan’s heart to seize that day, or how he survived such a severe episode. But his family knows his road to survival started with Strongsville’s emergency services.
Nate, along with his mom, Chris, and sister, Riley, visited Fire Station No. 1 on June 2 to thank the paramedics and dispatchers who helped save his life.
“Everything just lined up perfectly that day,” Nate said.
When Chris heard her son collapse, she ran to his side and called 911. Dispatchers Angela Love and Erica Brown got the call, with Erica handling the communications with paramedics and Angela on the phone with Chris, who is a nurse at the Cleveland Clinic.
She encouraged the terrified mom to start CPR. Chris described herself as “a train wreck,” but was able to put her training to use.
“We always say, the sooner someone starts (CPR), the better off the patient is, and he’s proof,” Zinn said.
Zinn and paramedics Christian Flaherty and Josh Maslocha shocked Nate’s heart with a defibrillator all the way to Southwest General, where finally, his pulse stabilized. He went into V-fib again after a catheterization procedure and was again revived.
Doctors weren’t sure he was stable enough to be transported, but Chris and Riley, who also works at the Cleveland Clinic, decided to risk the helicopter flight to the main campus.
Nate was in the hospital for just under four weeks. His heart has now fully recovered from the ordeal, but he has a defibrillator implanted in his chest to detect and regulate any future arrhythmia.
He’ll be cleared to return to work at O’Reilly Auto Parts next month, but he’s now considering a career in the medical field, he told the Strongsville paramedics.
“I’m just blessed to have you guys help me and to have medical professionals in my family,” Nate said.
Backing up the Station No. 1 paramedics on the call were Capt. Paul Filon, Lt. Matthew Fabec, Chris Milne and James Loparo.
Zinn said they were all aware that day of how serious Nate’s situation was.
“It’s just great to see you up and walking around,” he said.
June 1-7 is CPR and AED Awareness Week, spotlighting how lives can be saved if more Americans know CPR and how to use an automated defibrillator. The Strongsville fire department offers classes (free for Strongsville residents) for both. Contact firemedic Charley Walters at Charles.firstname.lastname@example.org
or (440) 580-3210, Ext. 5433.
Pictured are dispatcher Erica Castro, Nathan Perez, firemedic Joshua Maslocha, Lt. Tom Zinn, dispatcher Angela Love and firemedic Christian Flaherty.