By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
EVERETT — The way Gloria Savinski sees it, she now has two birthdays to celebrate: the day she was born and the day she was brought back to life.
It was Sunday morning July 26, 2009, when the Marysville woman suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed during a church service in Everett.
Over the past four years, Savinski had been able to thank members of her congregation for their quick actions that saved her life.
On Wednesday, she dropped by an Everett Fire Station in the 3600 block of Rucker Avenue. She brought a fruit tray, cookies and other goodies.
It was time to express her gratitude to firefighters and paramedics whose faces she didn’t recognize. They were the ones who got to the church in less than five minutes and brought her back from the dead.
“I have wanted to do this for a long time,” she said.
Savinski, 66, hugged firefighters Elliott Ward, Rich Smith and Mike Bedard as well as paramedic Travis Gamm. All were part of a larger team on the call to the View Ridge Community Church that day.
A battle with breast cancer and other family illnesses got in the way of an earlier visit.
It was a joyous reunion.
Savinski brought an entourage, including her husband, son, daughter, three grandchildren and members of her church who had come to her aid in her moment of peril.
Among them was Jackie Davis, an emergency medical dispatcher who was sitting in a second row pew when Savinski buckled and fell to the floor. Davis instantly recognized the danger and started CPR.
“She was gone,” Davis recalled Wednesday. “She was ashen. Her lips were blue. She was gone.”
That day, Davis recited the instructions she had given people so many times over the phone as an emergency dispatcher.
She told the church’s bass player, who also rushed to help and is trained in CPR, to make sure he pushed down hard on Savinski’s chest.
Davis tilted Savinski’s head back and gave her breath.
Gamm, a paramedic for 13 years, remembers the call well.
Four years ago, parishioners held hands and prayed for Savinski in the back of the church as the aid crew took over.
Medics shocked her three times before they found a pulse.
“You came back quickly,” Gamm told Savinski Wednesday.
Savinski’s pulse stopped again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. It stopped a third time after she arrived at the emergency room of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
Each time, it was restored.
“It was scary,” said Savinski’s husband, Darrell, who raced to her side, “The priest was standing there doing the crisscross motion. I thought she was dead.”
The Everett Fire Department gets about 19,000 emergency calls each year.
Ones like Savinski’s stand out, Gamm said.
The teamwork, from the church to the fire department to the hospital emergency room, was impressive, he said.
It also was reassuring.
“Once you care for somebody, you have a connection and you wonder how they did later on,” Gamm said. “It is so nice to see a good outcome.”
The visit from Savinski was a good reminder to firefighters and paramedics about why they are in their chosen profession, said Joe Paterniti, the department’s medical services officer.
“I’m so proud of them,” he said. “I spend my career walking among giants. These people are bigger than life.”
Although the main purpose of Savinski’s visit was to express her thanks, she also was looking to fill in gaps of what happened to her.
She has no memory of her collapse, the aid crew, the ambulance or the three days she spent on a ventilator.
She underwent triple bypass surgery and spent 11 days in the hospital. She said she was discharged with a greater appreciation for life.
Savinski counts her blessings.
She gets to spend precious time with her grandchildren. She successfully fought breast cancer. A cardiologist has told her that her heart is strong enough that she won’t need to replace a defibrillator that was removed during her cancer treatment.
“Ornery as ever,” she said with a smile.
“I figure that’s a good thing.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.