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Jeannette and Steve's Story AMR Riverside



A familiar face is a daily comfort that most of us can relate to; a small smile from the barista at your favorite coffee shop, or an enthusiastic greeting from one of your co-workers can turn any day around for the better. But what if you run into a familiar face in a time of need or in a dire situation?

This was the case for Steve and Jeanette. They will both tell you that July 18, 2015 was one of the hardest days of their lives. For Jeannette, it was the day Steve and his partner Tony saved her life, twice, and for Steve it was the day that he almost lost a comforting, familiar face in the back of his own ambulance.

Jeanette had been gardening one day when she came across a dead bird on her lawn. She surmises that during removal she was bit by a mosquito that had fed from the bird. It was a total of 15 blurry and incoherent days later that she found out that she had contracted the first known case of West Nile Virus in Riverside, CA.  She was discharged and sent home to let the virus ‘run its course’ as it has to. Jeannette woke up one morning and remembers that “…my hands and legs started to shake uncontrollably. I screamed, something was terribly wrong; my jaw started getting tighter and tighter.”

Next thing she knew, AMR Paramedic Steve Brandenburg and his partner Tony were rushing to Jeannette’s aid after her son called 911. Steve remembers saying “Hey it’s Jeannette, how are you?” when he first saw the ailing nurse in her home. Jeannette says those words calmed her down and let her know she was in good hands; she recognized Steve’s familiar face.

Jeannette’s family watched as Steve and Tony took her by stretcher to the ambulance. She was able to tell her son she loved him as they closed the ambulance doors and began the drive to the hospital. The ambulance ride was recounted differently by both parties as they shared their stories of that day. Jeannette remembers trying to lighten the mood with a joke and feeling confused when Steve started yelling out “stay with him.” “Where am I going?” she thought. Steve remembers the chaos of the ride and the two alarming 12-lead readings. He remembers how she kept repeating that she did not feel well and to tell her family she loved him. Most of all, he remembers when Jeannette’s heart stopped for the first time when they were in bumper to bumper traffic on the 15/91 Freeway in Corona.

When Jeannette’s heart stopped, Steve immediately yelled for Tony to pull over and help him save her life. Jeannette, however, was miles away from the scene “…floating in a serene, calm, open, vast space being absorbed as one. I liked it and I was going, going…off in the distance I heard chaos and voices, but they no longer mattered.”

Steve knew the situation was dire when he heard Jeannette utter “here I go” just before her heart stopped. He immediately began CPR while trying to open and secure the defibrillation pads for the initial 200J shock. Steve remembers how effortlessly and effectively he and Tony worked as they shocked Jeanette back to life at 360J on the third and final shock. Jeannette’s heart stopped one more time before reaching the Emergency Room at Riverside Community Hospital. Fortunately, the men were able to revive her once again and get her to the hospital alive with sustained ROSC.

“During the ride to the hospital, I offered for Jeannette to hold my hand if she liked. I have never had anyone hold my hand that hard before,” Steve remembers. Steve and Tony pulled up to the emergency room and saw the entire ER staff awaiting their arrival. The care was transferred and numbers reported before Jeannette and Steve parted ways. Steve remembers finally being able to take a deep breath and give Tony a hug.

“In all of my years as an EMT and now Paramedic, I never thought of or imagined having someone I know and indirectly work with go into cardiac arrest in front of me. This call hit me and Tony in a certain way. We both gave each other a hug and may have shed a few tears.”

Once Jeannette was out of the Cath Lab and starting her recovery, the two men went to see how she was doing. Jeannette was in pain but was happy to have the chance to thank them for saving her life. Steve and Tony then met with Jeannette’s husband and son, where they exchanged contact information. A few days later, Steve and Tony received a text message from Jeannette thanking them for what they had done and letting them know she was safely back home.
“I owe my life to two fine young men, Paramedic Steve Brandenburg and EMT Tony Knittel If not for their skills and professionalism, I wouldn’t be here today. As an RN, if my patient codes I call it and ten or more staff arrive to assist.  But these two saved my life, not once but twice, just the two of them; no additional resources, just their teamwork, knowledge and skills. I am ever so thankful and impressed. I think both deserve recognition,” says Jeannette as she reflects on that life-changing day.

Both Steve and Tony have kept in touch with Jeanette and her family, and are waiting or the day that they can give her another big hug when she is back at work, which Jeannette has said will be soon.