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Patient buys ballistic vests for paramedics who saved him

The man said he hopes his gift plants the seed for others to step up and help equip paramedics

By Steven Henshaw
Reading Eagle

READING, Pa. — The call that two Reading Fire Department medics went to on Valentine's Day that saved the life of Ted Chase was the type they handle every day.

But it's while on those so-called run-of-the-mill calls, they said, that emergency medical responders are more likely to find themselves in life-threatening situations.

Unlike shooting scenes, in which ambulance crews wait nearby while police secure the scene, ambulance crews are called to homes for what appear to be routine medical problems or a fall, only to find out the situation isn't as it appeared when they were dispatched.

That's why some medics wear bullet- and knife-proof vests on every call, purchased with their own money.

"I think everyone should have them on," said Marco Lessig, a city paramedic. "You never know what you're going into. That's the problem."

Lt. Michael Grow, who responded with Lessig to Chase's home at 10th and Court streets the morning of Feb. 14, said emergency medical responders sometimes find themselves in the crossfire.

"It's the run-of-the-mill calls, where you have maybe someone who has some kind of disability or mental health issue and you walk in," he said. "Two family members who are not getting along - someone just loses it and pulls out a weapon, whether it be a knife or bat or gun, whatever, and we're there trying to help somebody and get stuck in the middle."

Chase, 63, said he's alive only because of the emergency care he got from Lessig and Grow.

While recovering in the Reading Hospital, he had a conversation with a nurse who is married to a city paramedic.

"I asked what they would really want," Chase said. "She said, 'Listen, the guys go out on calls and they have families and they don't have protection.'

"So I said, 'If I bought vests and gave it to them would that help,' and she said, 'That would help tremendously.'"

Chase made good on his promise.

After three weeks in the hospital, during which he had surgery to implant an internal defibrillator and pacemaker after resuscitation from a sudden cardiac death, he ordered two ballistic vests for about $1,000 apiece. They're also knife-proof.

He asked Susan Becker, owner of Jersey Ink, a custom screen-printing business at 1601 N. Ninth St., to add white, fluorescent, capital letters spelling "Reading Fire/EMS" and "Paramedic" as well as the medic emblem. She provided the service for free.

Chase was at the ambulance station on Walnut Street on Friday to greet to his heroes and see them don the vests. One of vests is steel-plated and would be reserved for those calls in which there is an active shooter, such as a school shooting, he said.

"It's my way of saying 'Thanks,'" Chase said. "Marco saved my life. If it wasn't for them, both of them, I wouldn't be here today. I wanted to be sure the guys were taken care of."

Chase, a professional civil-process server, said he hopes his gift plants the seed for others to step up and help equip the ambulance crews.

He plans to start soliciting businesses and lawyers for contributions and see where it leads.

"I don't have much time left," he said. "I want to make the most of it and say I contributed."

Copyright 2017 Reading Eagle
All Rights Reserved

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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