Suburban Heroes: How Carol Stream firefighters, bystander helped man survive heart attack
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Wayne Stringham struggles for the right words to convey gratitude for the men who kept him alive.
He'll return to work Monday, nearly four months after he suffered a massive heart attack known as a "widow maker" while in a church parking lot.
"What do you say to someone who saved your life? 'Thank you' seems so trivial," Stringham said.
So he tried to show his appreciation by attending a recent ceremony honoring the Carol Stream firefighters and a bystander who rushed to his aid.
"You figure you're going to see superheroes," Stringham said. "These are just regular guys doing their jobs."
Stringham was doing his job as a facilities manager at Community Fellowship church Oct. 12. He had picked up a wood chipper for landscaping work, parked the church van and got out of the vehicle. He can't remember what happened next.
Stringham lost consciousness and struck his head on a curb. Joe Gomilar, a volunteer helping clean up the church grounds, performed CPR while another volunteer called 911. The station No. 27 crew of Lt. Chad Grandgeorge, Lt. Rusty Grenier and firefighter-paramedics Chris Diebold, Jason Kanzia and Jeremy Roman arrived and confirmed that Stringham, 64, was in cardiac arrest. Those suffering from it can die within minutes.
"Every day we try to make a difference, and on that day we did," Grandgeorge said.
Kanzia and Roman gave chest compressions. Grandgeorge, Grenier and Diebold prepped Stringham for the ambulance ride to Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield. The crew got a pulse after delivering six shocks to his heart with a defibrillator.
Stringham would undergo a quadruple bypass surgery to clear complete blockages in two arteries and 80 percent blockages in two others. His doctor called his survival a "miracle."
Stringham agrees, pointing to the unusual string of circumstances that saved his life -- "The guys showing up for volunteering that morning, guys that knew CPR, the paramedics being as good as they were and not giving up on me."
Fire Chief Bob Hoff recognized those efforts when he presented crew members and Gomilar with plaques during a special roll call. Stringham, his wife and the oldest of their two daughters thanked them. And Stringham says he plans to organize a CPR training session with Carol Stream firefighters at the church.
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