Paramedic Depends On Former Student To Save Him

Wednesday, December 24th 2008, 9:29 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- An EMSA paramedic thankful to be alive. If it wasn't for his own medical knowledge and the skills of the paramedics he works with, he says, his wife might have been without him this Christmas.

Don Rhea was at home when he started to have strange feelings in his chest. They weren't that painful, but he was suspicious enough to go into work at EMSA and hook himself up to an EKG machine.

Rhea was having a heart attack, the one they call the "widow maker."

"So I was having a big one," said Don Rhea.

Another paramedic, David Yales, was just getting ready to go on duty when Rhea asked him for help. They loaded him up in the back of the ambulance and got to work on him, just as they would any other patient. Only this was no ordinary patient.

Rhea is the paramedic who trained Yales back when he was brand new.

"He was pretty nervous at that point, being on a cot in the back of an ambulance. I remember him saying that. I was, I'm not going to lie, I was pretty nervous too, taking care of the guy that trained me," said David Yales.

But if this was the ultimate test, Yales passed. He got Rhea to St. Francis Hospital where he received stents in his right coronary artery just thirty minutes later.

"I was very happy and very proud. I'm probably more proud of that call than anything else I've done at EMSA," said David Yales.

Rhea is proud of him too and proud of his own instincts. Without them, he says, he would have died.

"I'm thankful that I'm still alive. I came out of it with basically hardly any heart damage. I'm still at work. I mean I'm 51years old. That's kind of young to wind up dead," Don Rhea said.

Rhea returned to work just two weeks after having that heart attack.