Thank you, EMS: Man visits crew that saved his life

Published 2:40 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

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By Jeanna Baxter White

Word Master Media Group

Joe Scott’s story is one of remarkable survival against the odds.

On Nov. 3, his heart suddenly stopped while walking his dog, rendering him clinically dead for two to three minutes.

In the United States, around 350,000 people experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year, with 90 percent not surviving.

Yet, on Dec. 9, just five weeks later, Joe, accompanied by his wife, Joyce, walked into Davie County EMS Station 1 with homemade cookies to express gratitude to the emergency services team who saved his life.

“God was guiding every one of you that day, whether you know it or not. You are all heroes. I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Joe said. “My wife and I want you guys to know that you didn’t just save one life that day; you saved two. I am my wife’s primary caregiver, and a lot would have had to change for her without me.”

Having served as a volunteer EMT in the late 70s and early 80s, Joe understands the magnitude of his good fortune. Davie County EMS boasts a resuscitation rate well above the national average, earning gold or platinum awards for their outcomes from the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medicine.

“We follow different guidelines which have improved our outcomes. Be glad you were in Davie County and not another place,” said Brian Blunkall, Davie County EMS shift supervisor.

The Scotts attribute Joe’s survival to a series of small decisions, starting with a change in his walking route that day. Living at the corner of Gwyn and Tot streets, Joe usually took a different path.

However, on that fateful day, he walked down Valley Road for the first time.

“God was putting you out there where someone could see you,” Joyce said.

Mocksville firefighters Ryan Hall and Taylor Mohat, who happened to be on the way back from lunch, heard the call come across the radio and raced to the scene without waiting to be dispatched, saving minutes.

A bystander had called 911, but no one had started CPR. While Hall checked for a pulse, Mohat quickly started chest compressions. Fortunately, he regained a pulse before they had to shock his heart.   

Soon, Davie County Rescue Squad’s Blunkall and Kevin Hendrix arrived to help, as did Davie County EMS. EMT Colby Sanders, who was driving the ambulance, raced him to the hospital while paramedics Jake Smith and Jennifer Meuser treated him in the back.

Joe spent a week in the hospital and received a combination pacemaker/defibrillator.

“Next time I pass away, I’ll still have a heartbeat,” he said.

He didn’t have a heart attack or a stroke. Doctors at Baptist still don’t know what caused his heart to stop spontaneously and are continuing to study his case. His only side effects have been a little short-term memory loss that the doctors expect to resolve over the next year.

Joe credits the first responders for not only saving his life but renewing his faith in God.

He explained that at 19, he was sent to Vietnam  and saw things no one should have to see. He was the only one of his five-member recon team to survive.

“I felt like God wasn’t there. I couldn’t believe it, even though I tried. In the hospital, I realized God had been there the whole time. It took what you did to bring God back to me.”

Joe ended the visit by offering his support. “I think the public has to go through something like I did to understand your full value. If there is anything I can ever do for you, just ring my number, and I will be here for you like you were here for me.”

The visit from Joe Scott brought joy to the first responders, who rarely witness such positive outcomes.

“It’s not very often that we get to have an event like this,” said Blunkall. “Getting to see Mr. Scott from the start of the issue to such a great outcome is wonderful.”   

Firefighter Ryan Hall echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the rarity of such positive encounters in their line of work.

“It’s heartwarming to meet someone on the good side of a situation. When we shut the ambulance doors, it’s usually the end of it. We may hear that a patient made it out of the hospital, but seeing him, talking to him, and knowing that our hard work made a difference in his life is awesome.”