When Pieter C. Metz awoke in Mercy Hospital just before Christmas, he knew he was alive but didn’t know how he got there.
“The first time I opened my eyes, I saw a nurse and a doctor, and I knew I was a patient in the room,” he said.
He had no recollection of walking the length of the Town of Tonawanda Aquatic & Fitness Center’s pool Dec. 6 to the sauna where he collapsed in cardiac arrest. And he couldn’t recall the many rescuers who rushed to his aid, including lifeguards Jason R. Folmsbee and Joanie Burger; Police Lt. Paul A. Yacono and Officers Kevin A. Walsh and Chris Ryan; town paramedics Thomas Scime, Matthew DeRose and John J. Bongiovanni; and Twin City Ambulance crew Jamie Emery and Craig Mangenello.
But Metz, who recovered from triple-bypass surgery and is back to swimming three days a week at the aquatic center, got a chance Thursday to thank some of those responders who initiated CPR and defibrilliated his heart twice when seconds counted.
“You look a lot better than the last time I saw you,” Yacono told Metz in town Police Headquarters during a ceremony to mark National Emergency Medical Services Week, which has been observed annually since 1974 to honor emergency medicine’s “front line.”
“I’m here, as you can see. I can do everything, and I’m alive,” said Metz, 85, who immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands in 1957 and retired after 25 years working for the University at Buffalo. “Thanks a lot again, guys.”
The patient had a good outcome because of the combined efforts of lifeguards who began CPR, police who continued it and medics who gave advanced life support, said paramedic supervisor Michael J. Baumgartner. Thursday’s event also highlighted the importance of learning basic lifesaving skills such as CPR, he said.
“I just can’t stress enough the importance of early recognition, dialing 9-1-1 to get help on the way, learning CPR and actually doing something,” he said. “That gives us the best opportunity to resuscitate somebody.”
Metz’s critical emergency was the first time that town medics successfully resuscitated someone using one of their state-of-the-art Zoll X series cardiac monitors, which had been placed in service just a week before, Baumgartner said.
Six of the monitors were donated by the James V. Ryan Foundation, which is named for the town supervisor who started the paramedic program in the 1970s. It exists to raise funds and plan major purchases for the unit, which is part of the Police Department.
“Everybody who saw me on the floor there and saw these guys working on me said, ‘Boy, they are good,’ ” Metz said. “In my mind, what they do, they do well.”