While being taken to Centerpoint Medical Center on Oct. 24 last year, Lee's Summit resident and V's Italiano Ristorante General Manager Greg Hunsucker remembers being in substantial pain and praying “Thy will be done.”
Three months later Hunsucker relished the chance to meet the first responders who helped save his life.
Centerpoint Medical Center and Lee's Summit Medical Center hosted an annual event that reunites first responders with some patients whose lives they helped save. This year, for the first time, they partnered with the Missouri Mavericks and Silverstein Eye Centers Arena for the reception called “Great Saves on Ice.”
Hunsucker and three other patients and their families met with first responders and hospital personnel in a reception Tuesday at the arena before the Mavericks game, and they were honored on ice during an intermission.
“It's earth-moving, amazing to see them now,” Hunsucker said. “They put me on drugs pretty quick, so I don't remember a whole lot, but I do remember (them).”
He and his wife Mary and their two sons, all of whom work at V's, were preparing for the Saturday dinner service last Oct. 24 when Greg started to feel chest pain.
“The fire department started work on me first,” he said. “Then the paramedics arrived and immediately diagnosed that I was having a coronary issue, immediately got in the back of their ambulance and away we went. They sent my wife on to the hospital ahead of us.”
Hunsucker also had suffered a heart attack seven years ago and had two stents put in at the time. At Centerpoint, they found a clot at one of the stent sites. After an angioplasty to open up the clot, he was able to avoid major surgery.
“I was released on Wednesday and went right back to work,” he said. “I was running around the hospital on Monday, but they kept me for observation.”
And furthermore, Mary added, he quit smoking after that episode. She's hoping it sticks this time, as he had quit after the first heart attack and then started up again.
While looking forward to the hockey game, Hunsucker reflected on his good fortune.
“If you have that experience, mine's the type of experience you want,” he said. “I was getting ready for Saturday night service, but the timing was good, right place, near a hospital.”
Robert Zornes, executive director of Mother's Refuge in Independence, had left work late in the morning July 17 to get a drink at McDonald’s but was unable to form the words for his order. Upset, he returned to work and called his wife, who recognized his speech problem and had him call 911. First responders arrived in less than 10 minutes and tested him as positive for stroke symptoms.
Zornes' mind got bad enough in that short time that he couldn't remember his wife's name or his own, but he said he remembered a television show the night before that mentioned speech difficulties as a stroke symptom.
“My mother had a stroke and never came back from it,” he said. “I didn't want to be another stroke person. That's what I worried about the whole time.”
Zornes received a clot-busting drug shortly after arriving at Centerpoint, had a short hospital stay, recently completed speech therapy treatments and has returned to work.
Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk had a special appreciation for the reception, for he worked as a firefighter in Canada in between his playing and coaching days in hockey – convinced by a neighbor who also served as the town's fire chief.
“Everything from motor vehicle accidents to residences on fire,” he said. “It was similar to the adrenaline rush that I had when I was playing, and you're counting on the other guys.”
Other stories celebrated were those of Jessica Headlee from rural Johnson County (Mo.), who was preparing for an Army Reserve deployment to Panama last April when she suffered a heart attack but was treated quickly enough to get a major heart artery unblocked, and Savannah Bush, who was involved in a car crash on U.S. 50 near Lee's Summit last August when an unyielding vehicle crossed in front of her. Bush received minor injuries, but she was especially grateful for how the EMS crew cared for her 7-year-old daughter and 6-week-old son physically and emotionally.