Survivors reunited with FDNY heroes who saved them

- Last year alone, the FDNY responded to more than 1.7 million calls, many of them are for people in medical distress.

"We're very invested in our patients when we're out there trying to help individuals," first responder Jeremy Summerville said. "And it's not very often that we know the outcome of the jobs that we face."

But Wednesday at the FDNY's 23rd annual Second Chance Ceremony, eleven patients -- ages 2 to 84, all survivors of cardiac arrest -- were reunited with the very people who helped save their lives.

Michael Allen, 54, was working at a basketball game in the South Bronx when he fell to the floor in cardiac arrest.

"When you go through the situation that I've gone through, you start to realize that they're a little bit more than the average person," Allen said, referring to FDNY responders. "They're my heroes."

Ashley Newman was rehearsing for an upcoming performance with her dance group, The Chase Brock Experience, when she fell to the ground in front of her fellow dancers. Her emotion was visible throughout the entire ceremony.

"I got emotional when the first survivor was up there -- the 2-year-old child. The fact that there is eleven of us over a year, that are here," said Newman, 32. "That's powerful to know how close I was to not being here."

Every individual life-saving story was different, but the outcome for them, the same: each survivor was given a second chance.

One of those survivors is Andrene Bowes, 33, who was riding the subway in Lower Manhattan with her then-4-year-old son when she collapsed on the train.

"You don't know how precious life is until you almost don't have it," Bowes said. "And then I think about my son growing up with a mom. Every day I'm thankful. I pray for these people and I'm so happy I got to meet them."

The first responders who saved her life feel the same way.

"We're thrilled to meet her again under better circumstances," Michael Demarco, a first responder, said. "Her son was wonderful and amazing when we met him the first time. We just couldn't be happier to meet you again."

On the day of her incident, Bowes received a total of five shocks from a defibrillator. She was also intubated before ultimately requiring intraosseous infusion, which involves drilling directly into a patient's bone to provide immediate medication.

"I felt like I woke up from a long dream. Now that I'm up and after I heard everything, I thought 'wow, that's crazy -- I shouldn't be here,' but, here I am today," Bowes said.

And while the survivors do not remember their first encounter with their first responders, at the same time they will never forget that meeting.

"They're my brothers, they're my family as far as I'm concerned, for life," Allen said.

The first responders are credited for their skilled training and quick arrival, but according to the FDNY immediate CPR coupled with defibrillation within the first few minutes after sudden cardiac arrest can greatly increase a victim's chance of survival.

Two of the eleven survivors received cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, from bystanders before on-duty FDNY members arrived. The FDNY CPR Training Unit offers free CPR training at classes throughout the city and has trained more than 100,000 New Yorkers to perform bystander CPR.

For more information about learning bystander CPR for free, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/FDNY/CPR.

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