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Wash. cardiac arrest survivor reunited with rescuers

Brad Holyoak visited the Spokane Valley firehouse to thank his rescuers

By Roberta Simonson
The Spokesman-Review

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — About a month ago, Brad Holyoak, 65, collapsed face-first into his bathtub.

He had suffered cardiac arrest and lost consciousness. His wife called 911, and Spokane Valley firefighters were able to reach him in minutes.

“They honestly didn’t think he was gonna make it,” Patrick Erickson, Spokane Valley Fire Department spokesman, said of the first responders.

He did, and Tuesday morning, Holyoak visited Spokane Valley Fire Station 10 to thank the crew that saved his life and to raise awareness about the work they do.

It wasn’t his first time visiting the station, Erickson said. Holyoak had shown up weeks after the incident to thank the crew, but three of the four firefighters who saved him weren’t there.

“He wanted to make sure the whole crew got to see him,” Erickson said.

On top of Tuesday’s visit at the station, the crew surprised Holyoak last week, stopping by his home just four blocks from the fire station, to check on him.

Firefighter Nick Pendergrass was among the crew that responded to the call and was at the fire station Tuesday.

“It’s not normal to have someone knock on the door and say, ‘Hey, you guys saved my life,’ ” Pendergrass said. The event was a first for Pendergrass.

A lot of the time, first responders don’t know what happens to the people they are called to save; they’re always moving on to the next call, he said.

Holyoak’s visit “means a lot to our firefighters, especially when it’s a positive outcome like this,” Erickson said.

Holyoak’s wife, Julie Holyoak, wasn’t surprised when her husband told her he was going to visit the station.

“I kind of knew he would ... it’s just the way he is,” she said.

All that’s left of Brad Holyoak’s fall is a small bruise on his face. Half of his face used to be black and blue, he said.

Pendergrass said Brad Holyoak is lucky to be alive.

“Very lucky, very lucky to come back from that one,” he said.

Despite waking up in the hospital just a month earlier, Brad Holyoak was happy and cracking jokes at the fire station Tuesday.

Holyoak, in a camouflage “Vietnam Vet” ball cap, took a look around the station’s garage. There were a few emergency vehicles, a line of red lockers down one wall and a row of jackets down another.

“Where’s your pole?” he asked Erickson. Erickson told him they don’t have a pole, and they don’t have Dalmatians either.

Holyoak joked about his fall — which he doesn’t remember.

“Was I holding up a peace sign?” he asked his wife. “Did I have my hat on?” The answer to both questions was no.

He joked about falling into an empty bathtub. Pendergrass told him it’s not particularly uncommon.

“A lot of times they decide to fall in places we don’t want them to fall into,” Pendergrass said of the people they save.

But Brad Holyoak was all seriousness when he spoke of the firefighters who saved his life.

“I was dead and they brought me back to life, and that’s something I won’t forget,” he said. “I call my wife an angel, but these guys are angels, too.”

Holyoak said it’s important to show appreciation for first responders.

“Thank them for what they do; they’re special people,” he said.

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