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Wis. heart attack survivor is reunited with new FD rescuers

Tom Jansen was able to personally thank the EMTs from the new Norway department that responded to his emergency

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Wind Lake Volunteer Fire Company/Facebook

By Scott Williams
The Journal Times

NORWAY, Wis. — Tom Jansen was in his kitchen getting ready to make chop suey when sharp pains in his chest told him something was wrong.

Within a few minutes, 67-year-old Jansen was whisked away in an ambulance to a hospital in Milwaukee.

It was the afternoon of Nov. 13, and the Norway Fire Department was about to record its first life-saving ambulance run, less than two months after beginning service.

The department started Oct. 1 as successor to the private Wind Lake Volunteer Fire Company, which ceased operations after 75 years of fire and ambulance calls in the area.

Jansen, who survived his heart attack, was so grateful that he returned to the firehouse at 7857 S. Loomis Road a week later to thank the Norway Fire Department.

“They were great,” Jansen said. “I wouldn’t be here right now if they didn’t do what they did.”

Fire Chief James Mollet recounted the emotional episode later in a memo to the Norway Town Board, announcing that he would award commendations to all crew members involved.

Mollet said it is highly unusual for a patient to survive the sort of medical emergency that Jansen experienced — much less walk into a firehouse days later in full recovery.

The fire chief said he was proud of his crew’s handling of the situation.

“They acted selflessly and expediently,” he wrote the Town Board. “I’m honored to serve as your fire chief and lead a highly respected department with outstanding men and women.”

The crew members in the ambulance were Lt. Jeremy Konrath , firefighter/EMT Brett Seifert and paramedic Jules Gorak — all former Wind Lake volunteers who made the transition to the new town fire department.

EMT Emilie Davitz, EMT Caleb Wagner and cadets Courtney Wolfert, Alex Seifert, Charlie Jones and Logen Gordon are also being commended for their roles.

Mollet, a fire department veteran from the Milwaukee area, joined the new department Oct. 1 when town officials took over the defunct Wind Lake company. The Nov. 13 call for Jansen’s heart attack was the first major life-saving incident to occur under the new department, Mollett said.

Jansen, a retiree who lives alone, staggered to his neighbor’s house when he became ill that afternoon.

Neighbor Jim Wirtala said he immediately recognized Jansen was in bad shape and needed help. Wirtala said he dialed 9-1-1 and was impressed with the Norway Fire crew who showed up a few minutes later.

“They did a wonderful job,” he said. “They’ve got the equipment and the knowledge. We definitely need that.”

After quickly loading Jansen into the ambulance, Conrad, Seifert and Gorak headed to Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee. Along the way, the crew gave Jansen two nitroglycerin capsules to combat the effects of the heart attack.

Jansen recalls the ambulance team acting calmly and efficiently, which he said helped him to remain calm.

“They were very cool,” he said. “That was important.”

After arriving at the hospital, Jansen’s heart stopped beating. But hospital staff revived him and moved him into surgery where doctors cleared two clogged arteries in his heart.

Mollet said the patient’s chances for survival would have been “minimal” without the fast-acting care and treatment he received en route to the hospital.

Jansen was back on his feet a day or two later, and he returned home to Norway on Nov. 18 . He wasted no time in heading for the firehouse to deliver a box of donuts as a show of gratitude.

“They saved my life,” he said. “I was very, very lucky to have those folks.”

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