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Okla. responders save colleague who suffered heart attack at station

Johnny McCabe was treated by the fire chief and his fellow firefighters after he collapsed

By Kenton Brooks
Muskogee Phoenix

HASKELL, Okla. — All of Caleb Brewer’s training as a paramedic didn’t prepare him for what happened Monday.

The fire chief and his fellow firefighters of the Haskell Fire Department worked on treating Johnny McCabe after McCabe suffered a heart attack at the station.

“We pride ourselves at knowing what to do at a moment’s notice,” Brewer said. “Honestly, for a few seconds, we felt helpless when something happens right in front of you. The training kicked in, we figured out what to do and we did it. The result is Johnny’s still with us.”

McCabe was resting at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa on Tuesday, Brewer said. Brewer, along with Mark Burgess, Kenneth Young, Andy Fultz and David Fultz worked on reviving and treating McCabe, who they fondly call Johnny Mike, was stricken.

“Johnny Mike had just said something to me, and out of the corner of my eye I saw him starting to fall,” Brewer said. “I thought he had just slipped. Once he hit the ground and I got to look at him, we knew it was something different.”

The firefighters treated him, which included the use of the Automatic External Defibrillator, which provides an electrical shock to the heart. They also performed CPR on McCabe.

John Hallum III, a paramedic in Haskell, had been called for assistance.

“The heart was just quivering. We call it a mismatch,” Hallum said. “That’s the top of the heart and bottom of the heart don’t know what it’s doing. (McCabe) had a sudden cardiac event. He was clinically dead. Less than 1 percent of patients survive that. But his friends and fellow firemen got him back alive, and he’s one of the 1 percent.”

Hallum said he’s known the 59-year-old McCabe for 27 years, even when he owned a wrecker service in Haskell before joining the fire department.

“He’s a true joy in the community,” Hallum said.

McCabe had a procedure on his heart Tuesday morning in which the vessels were cleaned and a stent was inserted. Brewer talked to him on the telephone.

“Everybody in Muskogee County has seen him somewhere or heard him laugh,” Brewer said. “He was worried about his glasses because they had fallen under a truck where we didn’t think they had fallen. He was very relieved that we found them, and I’m taking them to him (on Wednesday).

“We’re definitely happy. He’s still got a way to go, but he’s in the right place right now.”

Brewer also wants to make one point clear.

“I don’t want to be painted as a hero or anything,” he said. “What we did is being ready to do our job.”

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