First Aid Classes | Heart Attack at Fire Station Leaves Crew Working to Save One of Their Own

Tony Spagnoletti with the men he calls his “lifesavers.” From left: Winston-Salem Fire Department Captain Scottie Emerson, paramedic David Folley, Spagnoletti, firefighter Michael Casstevens and paramedic Joffre Schrandt. (Photo courtesy of Tony Spagnoletti)

Firefighter Tony Spagnoletti was on overnight duty when he woke up with chest pains. He sloughed it off as “gas.”

“We’d been doing a rope rescue training earlier and I’d spent the day climbing up and down ladders,” Spagnoletti recalled of the night in 2012. “I was whipped but I didn’t notice anything unusual.”

But when the pain persisted, the trained emergency medical technician began to get concerned.

“[After chewing four baby aspirin,] I decided to get some oxygen from one of the trucks, but then I dropped the tank,” he said. “When I bent over to pick it up, the pain became the worst I’d ever experienced. Scale of 1 to 10, this was a 10.”

That’s when he called for help over the intercom.

Scottie Emerson, his captain at the time, said that when he came down the stairs, Spagnoletti was “as white as the firehouse walls.”

Acting quickly, Emerson called 911, took Spagnoletti’s blood pressure and started treatment with nitroglycerin.

EMS arrived within minutes and transported him to a hospital, which was less than a mile away. Although Spagnoletti works for the fire department in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he lives with his family in a small town about 40 miles away.

“If Tony had this heart attack at home, we’d have had to bury him,” Emerson said.

After arriving at the hospital, Spagnoletti went into cardiac arrest.

“I got tunnel vision and realized my pain was gone and I felt at perfect peace,” he remembers.

The next thing he knew, however, he was looking up at a nurse.

“I must have been dreaming,” he said to her.

“No,” she responded, “we just defibrillated you.”