KINGSTON — Electra Alessio and Kay LeClair are lucky to be alive.
Both suffered heart conditions that could have killed them, but they survived thanks to the quick action of Kingston fire and rescue personnel and paramedics from Exeter Hospital.
“I’m very grateful to be here. I think I’m meant to be around for another 30 years. I’m just not sure how I’m going to keep myself busy, but I’m going to find something,” Alessio said.
The emergency personnel who responded to the calls were honored at a special ceremony Monday night.
Fire Chief Bill Seaman presented a plaque called the “Cardiac Arrest Save Award” that will now hang in the fire station and carry the names of rescue personnel who save lives for years to come.
“To acquire the outcome we got on both of these calls, it really identifies the teamwork that went into the calls, from somebody calling 911 to getting emergency services started,” Seaman said.
Kay LeClair, 80, was at home May 1 when she began experiencing chest pain and difficulty breathing. Her son quickly called for an ambulance.
“They were right there right away,” she said.
The Kingston and Exeter Hospital medical personnel who responded were Seaman, Graham Pellerin, Bill Pellerin, Karyn Maxwell, Rich Abelli and Kevin Jessel.
At one point during the rescue, LeClair’s heart stopped as Kingston emergency personnel were heading to the hospital, so defibrillator pads were used. Exeter Hospital paramedics intercepted and used a LUCAS, a relatively new battery-operated device that performs chest compressions.
“If it wasn’t for the grace of God I wouldn’t be here today. I’m so grateful and so thankful,” LeClair said.
Her late husband was a member of the fire department for more than 40 years and was instrumental in getting the town’s ambulance in operation, she said.
Alessio, 65, and the publisher and editor of the Carriage Towne News, was at the newspaper office on June 6 and said she wasn’t feeling well. She told her assistant to hold her calls and figured she would take a power nap. She doesn’t remember anything after she closed her eyes and became unresponsive.
Alessio had a history of a severely weakened heart muscle, but not from heart disease or past heart attacks.
Coworkers performed CPR until Kingston police and rescue personnel arrived and her pulse was restored with a defibrillator before Exeter Hospital paramedics took her to the hospital.
The Kingston and Exeter Hospital responders who assisted Alessio were Karyn Maxwell, Rick Fowler, Ricky Fowler, Bill Pellerin, Graham Pellerin, Mike Mallen, Bill Waters, Kelly Langan, John Merrill, Nicole Kjellquist and Alison Frates.
“To see the patients is what really makes it worthwhile for us. We do a lot of calls where the outcomes aren’t so good, but see these women here smiling with their families. That makes all the difference,” said Laura Thibeault, emergency medical services manager who runs the paramedic intercept program at Exeter Hospital and is the liaison for the hospital and EMS in the local communities.
Dr. Thomas Wharton, head of cardiology and the cardiac catheterization unit at Exeter Hospital, also attended the ceremony and explained the techniques used to save the two women.“All kinds of people have heart attacks but they’re not as threatening as these. We probably save one patient every month that is this sick,” he said, adding that Exeter Hospital is able to offer sophisticated angioplasty care that was once only seen at big city hospitals.
Alessio and LeClair were fortunate to have quick care provided in the field by emergency responders, he said. Patients who receive cardiopulmonary rescuciation and rapid defibrillation before arriving at the hospital often have a higher survival rate, Wharton said.
“If they don’t get a pulse in the field and they don’t have a pulse when they get here, they don’t usually survive,” he said.
Easy-to-use automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, are becoming more common in public places and are an important live-saving tool, according to Wharton.
“AEDs ought to be as common as fire extinguishers,” he said.