STREETSBORO, Ohio — Being a firefighter means you're ready to go at all times. You don't get to stop when you're tired, you stop when the work gets done ... no matter who it is you're trying to save.
And, especially, when it's someone you love.
"You never think it's gonna be your family or someone you work with," said first-year Streetsboro firefighter, Tyler Carlton.
Yet, that's exactly what Tyler and his shift buddies encountered at the beginning of January, when 31-year veteran, Chris Fredmonsky, collapsed during a training class at the Streetsboro Fire Department.
"I can remember coming in to work that morning, doing our truck checks and what we had to do in the morning. I knew we had a continuing education class that the doctor was coming in to teach. Probably the last thing I remember is sitting down," Chris told us.
"You heard the chair just fly out and here you fell, fell on the floor," said Streetsboro fire captain Jeff Miller, pointing to where Chris collapsed.
Chris was in full cardiac arrest. His brothers at the firehouse knew just what to do.
"Get him on the monitor and it shows V-fib, which is a shockable rhythm. Um, the heart is basically trying to die at that moment. So, I put the patches on and we shock him, and that's when we started CPR again," Tyler said. "I mean, there's like five of us in the back of the squad and we were rotating back and forth."
For a few seconds, Chris came to in the back of the ambulance.
"Then somebody said, 'Freddy, Freddy, you're okay. We've got you,'" Chris said.
His next memory was waking up in the ICU at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center.
"I had heard Kent Fire and Ravenna sent squads here to cover because my whole shift was out," Chris said, fighting back tears. "Everybody came to see me at the hospital."
He sustained some injuries from the CPR, which according to his fellow firefighters, is common when you're trying to restart someone's heart.
"One of the guys was one of the ones that performed CPR on me. And, he apologized because he felt when my ribs were breaking. And, I told him, I go, 'Brother, you can break every rib I have, as long as the outcomes are the same, every time,'" Chris said, while trying to gain his composure.
It has to be for reasons bigger than we'll ever know, that Chris went down that day in the very place where CPR and AED training is a way of life.
"Our line of work ... this is not a normal outcome, you know? Typically, we get there several minutes after the event happened, and if nobody's doing CPR or getting an AED or anything on them, then our chances of getting them back are very slim," Jeff said.
Doctors still aren't sure what caused Chris's heart to stop, but they fitted him with a pacemaker and defibrillator in case of another emergency.
While his fire duties may not look the same in the future, he's not ready to say goodbye to the only career he's ever known.
NOTE: A GoFundMe has been launched to help Chris and his family with medical and other expenses. You can make a donation HERE.
"It would be very difficult because since I was 18, this is where I've been. We all have those days where you don't want to go into work, and this is a family here. I spend more time with these guys than I do with most of my family. I've seen these brothers of mine here, more than I see my own brothers. We spend 24 hours together," Chris said. "For that to end abruptly or quickly when you're not exactly ready for it, it'd be difficult to be strange," to say the least.
So, for now, he's focused on recovery and getting back to the firehouse, in whatever form he can manage.
Chris also hopes his story inspires many people to get trained in CPR and using an AED.
"This year, probably for my birthday ... how people always post, they want this donation on Facebook for their birthday. I'm gonna put on mine, I'd like at least 10 of my friends to learn CPR this year. And along with CPR, when you get trained in CPR, they will go over an AED and explain how to use it so you can be a little more familiar with the machine, know what it's there for and how to use it. They're so simple. Anybody can operate one," Chris said.
Editor's Note: The following video is from a previous, unrelated report.