ROCHESTER, N.H.-- After suffering a heart attack Jan. 9, a Wakefield man is grateful for his wife's foresight and the quick response of firefighters and emergency personnel who saved his life at the city's main fire station.
George Gilbert, who was 60 at the time, was en route from his Sanbornville home to Frisbie Memorial Hospital after pain, which he believed to be a pulled muscle from cleaning the attic, kept him up the night before, according to his wife, Joyce.
"He wanted to drive and I said, 'No,'" his wife said, adding they decided to take Route 125 through Milton instead of Route 16 to avoid the traffic and construction. "It's a good thing we did, because it brought us right in front of the fire station," Joyce Gilbert said. She said her husband passed out a block from the main station.
Joyce Gilbert said she pulled into the station, where firefighters used basic lifesaving procedures to help her husband.
"Within two minutes, the ambulance was right out front," she said. Paramedics from Frisbie were in the area on another call near the station. She said her husband was transported to the emergency room at Frisbie, but later moved to Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where he spent the next eight days. She said her husband quit smoking after doctors told him it led to the heart attack.
"It's given me a new lease on life," George Gilbert said.
City Councilor Sandra Keans said George Gilbert was not the only person saved by local police, firefighters and emergency personnel Jan. 9. Her neighbor's father also suffered a heart attack that day.
"I never saw such coordinated work," Keans said, adding the man's family and his doctor "think Rochester and Frisbie are the best."
The state recognized Rochester as a N.H. Heart Saver Community Feb. 17. The Gilberts were able to thank firefighters, paramedics, police and hospital staff during a short ceremony March 30 at the hospital.
"I want to thank each and every one of you for what you've done - for saving my life," George Gilbert said. "I'm just glad to be alive," he said.
Of the state designation, John Levitow, director of emergency nursing and EMS, said, "This was really a culmination of all the hard work of everyone."
Fire Chief Norm Sanborn said he is proud of the firefighters who were working that day, but also for all members of the department who have become certified as emergency medical technicians, including the few who are designated EMT-Intermediate and one firefighter who serves as a paramedic.
"It's a good team approach," Sanborn said.
Gary Brock, assistant director of EMS at Frisbie, said "Rochester's save rate is 28 percent, which is much higher than the 6 percent nationally."
Brock said the actual success rate is higher - probably closer to 50 percent - as Frisbie paramedics respond to surrounding communities in a 25-mile radius.
Police Chief David Dubois and Mayor T.J. Jean both agree the collaboration makes the community safer.