A hero’s welcome

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NAUGATUCK — When Timothy McDevitt went into cardiac arrest in the midst of a severe snow storm January 12, police and ambulance crews responded within minutes, saving McDevitt’s life.

State and local officials honored the first responders in that incident and others who saved a woman from a burning house during a ceremony at Beacon Brook Health Center June 22.

“It is a great comfort to know they are working in our community and putting the welfare of others ahead of their own,” said Aldo Pistarelli of Beacon Brook.

Pistarelli described how McDevitt had stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating. McDevitt’s wife, who is a nurse, started CPR before police Officers Brian Coney and Tom Grant arrived minutes later with a defibrillator. Neighbors helped clear the way through the snow for the ambulance crew with paramedic Peter Johnson, and EMTs Ashley Brown and Thomas Dempsey. The crew kept McDevitt alive and stable on his way to the hospital, where he later recovered.

McDevitt said he wanted to thank the whole town of Naugatuck and the first responders who saved his life that day.

“If it wasn’t for those officers on that snowy, snowy, snowy day, I wouldn’t be here to talk about it,” McDevitt said.

Johnson said the rescue of McDevitt was a team effort.

“Time is critical. You’re talking minutes, not hours. With the snow, you never know what kind of chance anything is going to have, so the fact that the police got there ahead of us and were able to defibrillate the patient made that a completely different story,” Johnson said.

Because the police were close by and had a defibrillator and McDevitt’s wife was able to perform CPR, the ambulance crew had a much better chance of saving McDevitt’s life, Johnson said.

“Nobody does the job by themselves,” Johnson said.

He said Naugatuck has good turn outs with its emergency calls because the fire department, emergency medical services, and police work closely together.

Johnson said it was nice to be recognized after serving Naugatuck for 20 years.

“It reminds us of why we got into it—to help people,” Johnson said.

On April 26 a fire broke out on Anderson Street. Dispatcher Fran Dambowsky could tell from the caller’s voice that there was something terribly wrong, according to Pistarelli. Dambowsky dispatched firefighters to the scene before the caller got off the phone, Pistarelli said. When the Fire Department arrived on the scene, they found an unconscious woman in the burning building. Firefighters rescued the woman who is alive and well, Pistarelli said. The woman was not present because she didn’t want to be in the limelight, he said.

Officials recognized Dambowsky, Capt. Richard Alves, Lt. Greg Flaherty, Second Assistant Chief Paul Russell, firefighters Jason Alford, Thomas Foley, Tim Andrew, Stephen Sousa, Thomas Kaminski, and Gregory McKirryher for their heroic actions that day.

Officials also presented a plaque to Naugatuck Ambulance Corp. paramedic Peter Johnson along with emergency medical technicians Ashley Brown, and Anna DeFelice for their actions above and beyond the call of duty in saving the live of a Naugatuck resident.

DeFelice said she didn’t expect to be recognized for the work she does on a daily basis.

“It’s nice to know that every once in a while it’s appreciated,” she said.

State senators Joe Crisco and Joan Hartley thanked the emergency personnel for the work they do throughout the year.

“Each and every day, it is our police and our fire and our EMTs and ambulance who are out there doing the unsung job that we, quite frankly, depend upon,” Hartley said. “We are in your debt.”

Mayor Robert Mezzo said it was a privilege to work in a community where emergency responders “have your back.”

“You never truly appreciate what they do until you need their services, until the crisis happens that you least expect and within an instant, they’re there. They’re trained. They’re professional. They’re compassionate. And they’re there to make sure you get through a very difficult time in your life,” Mezzo said.

Tim McDevitt, right, thanks Thomas Dempsey, left, and Peter Johnson, center for their role in saving his life.
Tim McDevitt, right, thanks Thomas Dempsey, left, and Peter Johnson, center for their role in saving his life.

Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said, as liaison to the fire department, and having worked with police and ambulance, that she knew the level of dedication and passion and compassion emergency personnel have for the community.

State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas read a citation from the State of Connecticut General Assembly congratulating the honorees.