Fellow responders' quick thinking saves N.H. FF-EMT after medical emergency

Firefighter-EMT John Klanchesser was having an ordinary day until he felt lightheaded and said something out of character

By Leila Merrill

RYE, N.H. — Firefighter-EMT John Klanchesser, 56, had a medical emergency at the fire department on Dec. 7, and his coworkers responded quickly.

In honor of EMS Week, the Rye Fire Department told his story to Seacoastonline.

Members of the Rye Fire Department had been training before Firefighter-EMT John Klanchesser had an emergency.
Members of the Rye Fire Department had been training before Firefighter-EMT John Klanchesser had an emergency. (Photo/Rye Fire & Rescue)

"I was at work, for my 24-hour shift," said Klanchesser. "It was a regular day, not eventful. We did some training with Greenland and North Hampton, some inspections and routine duties at the fire house. Our EMS director, Lt. Jake MacGlashing, did some protocol training, routine stuff."

After training, EMS personnel were talking at the station. Klanchesser went downstairs to log notes on a computer, saw the bay lights were on and shut them off.

"I went to go back upstairs and I suddenly felt light-headed, so I stood still for a few minutes and it cleared," he said. "I was going to go to bed, but something told me to go back into the common area where three EMS people were still talking. I sat down on the couch. I said, 'Excuse me; I don't want to be rude but I don't feel good.' Just the 'excuse me' got their attention because I am pretty straightforward and just speak my mind."

Lt. Jake McLaughlin took his pulse.

"My heart rate was 40, not good," Klanchesser said. "Things quickly went downhill. I must have passed out because the next thing I remember is they were pacing me (trying to regulate heart rhythm) and got my heart up to about 80 (60-100 is a normal resting heart rate). That hurts. My right arm was twitching and I asked what was going on. They said, 'Calm down, we are taking care of you.' They put an IV in my arm, were bringing stuff from the ambulance.”

His heart rate fell to zero.

"We paced his heart with our monitor and we can control his heart rate," said Lt. Kevin Wunderly, Klanchesser's shift partner.

The team transported Klanchesser to Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

Emergency department doctor Blake Sonne said he is sure that the EMS team saved their colleague’s life.

Dr. Jeffrey Colnes, an interventional cardiac doctor, tried to establish what happened to Klanchesser. 

"He was at the fire station, where the bystanders were all experts," said Colnes. "He had irregular heart rhythms and they knew what to do and did it fast. We know he got lightheaded and it's reasonable to suspect irregular heart rhythms. We can't prove it, but I think it was ventricular tachycardia."

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