Mass. man gives retiring paramedic who saved his life a grateful sendoff
Antonio Pimentel said he would have died from his heart attack last November if not for New Bedford Senior Paramedic Lacy Gomes
The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — A guardian angel was watching over Antonio Pimentel when the 68-year-old former fisherman suffered a heart attack last November, the paramedic credited with saving his life said.
Pimentel and his son, John Pimentel, went to New Bedford EMS headquarters on Wednesday to personally congratulate Lacy Gomes, a senior paramedic, and to say that Antonio would not be alive today, if it was not for Gomes.
It was already a special day for Gomes before the Pimentels walked into the New Bedford EMS facility. Wednesday was his last day before he retires after 33 years with New Bedford EMS, including 18 years as a paramedic, as well as his 57th birthday.
"This gentleman saved my dad's life. That's a fact. If it wasn't for him, he would not be here," John Pimentel said of Gomes at a small retirement party for the outgoing senior paramedic.
The older Pimentel said he was at his home in New Bedford with his family on Nov. 10 and he didn't feel well before he collapsed. The family made a 911 call and his son, John Pimentel, performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation for the first time on anyone. "He was out. He changed color," the younger Pimentel said of his father.
Gomes got the call and was the first one on the scene, finding Pimentel in cardiac arrest.
Pimentel later had triple bypass surgery after doctors found three blockages and John Pimentel said the surgeon described it as "a miracle" his father survived. The elder Pimentel was with his family for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
"Your guardian angel must have been there from the heavens," Gomes told the Pimentels.
"You're one of them," John Pimentel said to Gomes.
This was the third time the Pimentels tried to personally thank Gomes, according to John Pimentel. They went to NBFD headquarters, thinking EMS and the Fire Department were in the same building, and only conveyed their appreciation to Engine 1 for their efforts in saving the elder Pimentel's life. Then they tried on one other occasion, but were unsuccessful.
It was quite a day for Gomes, the center of attention by co-workers at a small luncheon held in his honor.
"It always feels like it is in the future until it comes," Gomes said of retirement. He was joined at the luncheon by his wife, Maria Pontagarca.
Immediately, he will have to make the transition to "retirement mood," after rising at 5 a.m. and going to work for 7 a.m. for so many years.
He said he plans "to kick back" and figure out what he will do in his retirement. He said maybe he will work part-time as a paramedic somewhere or maybe he will do something totally different. "I guess in a month I will figure that all out," he said.
A fan of cruising, he said he and his wife are going to Bermuda in July and now he might have to plan another cruise "sooner."
Mayor Jon Mitchell stopped by the EMS facility on Hillman Street to give Gomes his best wishes. "I want to express my gratitude for what you have accomplished over a long and very distinguished career," the mayor said to Gomes.
Then addressing the entire staff at New Bedford EMS, Mitchell said, "What you do is just remarkable. You have an impact on people's lives," he said.
Gomes told his colleagues: "Godspeed and keep up the good work," and then added a few words that are near and dear to his heart, according to co-workers. "Always advocate for your patient, especially if they can't advocate for themselves."
Mark McGraw, New Bedford's EMS director, said he met Gomes in 1990 when McGraw started at New Bedford EMS. They both served in the Army and they had that in common.
They were partners on an ambulance for 13 years. "He was the best partner I ever had," McGraw said.
Gomes is dependable, has maybe called out sick once in his career and is a great mentor to the younger staff at New Bedford EMS, he said.
"He was a real advocate for the city," McGraw said. "He's a great guy. I'm going to miss him a lot."
©2020 The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.