AUSTIN (KXAN) — Everyday firefighters, law enforcement and medics are doing everything they can to save lives. However, it’s not every day these brave men and women get a visit from someone whose life they touched, and Sunday afternoon, one Austin man did just that.
On August 9, 88-year-old Bruno Boelstler was on his way to the grocery store when he suffered a sudden cardiac event. His car drifted onto the median and eventually crashed into a rock at the intersection of Escarpment Boulevard and Slaughter Lane in southwest Austin.
An off duty STAR Flight nurse out for a jog found Mr. Boelstler’s car crashed in the median and immediately jumped into action. They were able to pull Boelstler out of the vehicle and begin performing CPR. The Austin Fire Department eventually arrived on the scene and was able to get his heart into a rhythm.
Emergency medics were forced to use a defibrillator to send electricity through Mr. Boelstler’s body in an effort to fully restart his heart and get him to breathe on his own. Medics took Boelstler to a hospital where he was able to make a full recovery.
According to Brian Fitzpatrick, a District Commander with Austin-Travis County EMS, cardiac arrest incidents, like what happened to Mr. Boelstler, are some of the most severe calls they have to deal with. For every minute a victim’s heart is not beating the chance of survival decreases by 10%.
“When we worked on Mr. Boelstler he was moving his hands and trying to breathe on his own and that was a good indication to us that he had a high probability of recovering from this event and it just turned out that that’s the case,” said Fitzpatrick.
A month and a half after his life-changing incident Mr. Boelstler decided to visit Austin Fire Station 43 to thank the men and women who were that fateful day to save his life. With a wide grin, he shook the hands of each first responder.
“Just the teamwork and the effort that they put forth to get me where I am today, I just, I can’t say thank you enough, I can’t,” Boestler explained.
Boestler only remembers going to get groceries that day, the next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital. The first responders present that day helped Boestler and his family fill in the gaps about the incident.
Boelstler said this event has had a profound impact on how he sees life.
“I am thankful for every day that I have. I am thankful for the community that I live in and with these people around to help out whenever anybody needs any help,” said Boelstler. “It’s made my life different in how I view incidents and how I view people and I don’t judge things anymore.”
“I accept what’s there and live with it and do the best you can,” he continued, growing teary-eyed. “I don’t know, I get all lumpy, I’m sorry but that’s the way I feel.”
In many incidents, emergency medics and firefighters do no know what happens to the people in the calls they are sent to. According to Fitzpatrick, meeting the folks they are out there trying to protect and serve can mean a great deal to Austin’s first responders.
“A lot of time when we are on calls we don’t know the outcome. Sometimes people recover, sometimes they don’t but a lot of times we don’t hear what happens,” said Fitzpatrick. “It really is greatly satisfying to have somebody come back and tell us ‘thank you’ for the job that we did, to show us the impact we had on their lives.”
Boelstler says thanks to the efforts of Austin’s first responders, he is looking forward to celebrating his 89th birthday this December.
“I feel good, I feel great honestly,” he said of his health.
According to numbers compiled by the American Heart Association in 2016, the survival rate for cardiac arrest in the hospital was 24.8% for adults and the adult survival rate for cardiac arrest outside of the hospital was around 12%.
“I did look up a bunch of stuff on a computer and survival rate is not very good for what happened to me,” Boelstler told KXAN.”They pulled me through, every one of them.”