'The last time I saw you, you were dead': Honolulu medics reunite with cardiac arrest patient

"This job has lots of sad days, but to see him with his family today makes the job worth it, " EMS District Chief Kenneth Faria said

By Mia Anzalone
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

HONOLULU — After suffering cardiac arrest on April 10, 95-year-old Alan Kagawa reunited Tuesday with the four paramedics who saved his life.

After suffering cardiac arrest on April 10, 95-year-old Alan Kagawa reunited Tuesday with the four paramedics who saved his life. The reunion, which was part of National Emergency Medical Services Week, took place at the EMS Unit in Makiki. Kagawa was accompanied by his daughter, Kathy Mizusawa, 65, and granddaughter Kara Mizusawa, 31.

"It's wonderful to reunite people that we are able to help, and their families, with our crews, " said Dr. Jim Ireland, director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department. "It's the fuel that makes everyone want to come back to work every day in a job that's very stressful and difficult."

EMS District Chief Kenneth Faria said that in his 20 years of working at EMS, this is only his second reunion with a patient who has survived a cardiac arrest.

"This job has lots of sad days, but to see (Kagawa) with his family today makes the job worth it, " Faria said.

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Kagawa drove himself to 8 Fat Fat 8 Bar &Grille and was playing pool when he collapsed and stopped breathing. Four minutes later, an EMS unit arrived at the scene and attended to Kagawa until he began to show signs of life, according to a news release.

"The last time I saw you, you were dead, " American Medical Response paramedic intern Summer Artaud said to Kagawa.

Though Kagawa said he has no memory of April 10, he said he feels lucky that it happened that day as the available paramedics responded so quickly. Ireland said that Kagawa's story shows the importance of calling 911 early.

"Thanks to all of you, I'm here today, " Kagawa said.

Kagawa recovered at The Queen's Medical Center and was discharged on April 13. That day, Kathy Mizusawa and Kagawa drove straight to a family reunion at Maple Garden restaurant where Kagawa saw family from Kauai and Oahu, according to Mizusawa.

"It brought tears to my eyes, " Kathy Mizusawa said. "He's the patriarch of our family, so it was really nice—it was like a welcome home."

Kathy Mizusawa also thanked the paramedics at the reunion for saving her father, who she described as a "feisty old man " and a "bundle of energy."

Paramedic Eugene Hata ­keyama said that it is a privilege to serve the public at such times of dire need.

"It's amazing to see him make such a recovery, walking and talking, " Hata ­keyama said.

This hasn't deterred Kagawa from continuing to play pool. He said he has played the game since he was 18 years old. According to Kathy Mizusawa, Kagawa continues to practice pool twice a week and golf once a week. In fact, he played pool Monday at Kobayashi Billiards.

"Growing up, whenever my mom wanted to find me, the first place she went to was the pool room, " Kagawa said.

Besides being able to play pool and golf, Kara Mizusawa said the driving forces behind Kagawa's recovery are the goals of turning 100 years old and traveling to Las Vegas again.

"He always bounces back—he has an incredible zest for life, " Kara Mizusawa said.

This year's theme for EMS Week is "Where Emergency Care Begins, " according to Speedy Bailey, Hawaii's regional director of American Medical Response. EMS Week is an opportunity to recognize the essential work that caregivers and EMS do for the community, Bailey said.

Ireland said that being able to see the families and relationships of the people they help is part of the passion of the job and the backbone of EMS.

"They do their job so that others may live, " Ireland said.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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