November 1 began as a normal evening at work for Stephenville police officer Brit Ferguson, but what followed was anything but normal.
Ferguson, a veteran officer, was just beginning his shift and received a call over the radio asking for assistance. Two officers had driven by a residence looking for a suspect and had spotted him in the yard. The suspect saw the officers and ran into an apartment, locking the door behind him.
When Ferguson arrived, he parked his patrol car, ran across the yard and up the stairs to the apartment.
Then he began helping the other officers try to kick in the door.
“For a minute I forgot I was in my 50s,” Ferguson said. “I must have been thinking I was in my 20s!”
Unable to break the door, officers broke a side window and entered the apartment. Ferguson cut his finger on the glass and one of the officers called for an ambulance.
Stephenville Fire Department paramedics, Bryson Kanady and Stephen Apala, along with EMT, Mitchell Hughes, responded to the call and were on the scene within minutes.
“We didn’t know what we were looking for when we initially got there,” Kanady said. “Just that there was someone in need of medical attention.”
According to Kanady, when he entered the apartment he noticed the other officers arresting two individuals and Ferguson was sitting on the couch breathing heavily. When they asked who needed help, Ferguson told them he had cut his finger.
“As we were walking him outside to treat his finger, I noticed he looked really pale and was sweating a lot,” Kanady said. “So I asked him what was wrong and that’s when he told me he was having chest pains.”
As they were hooking Ferguson up to a monitor, he had a massive heart attack that caused him to lose consciousness and quit breathing.
“The best way to describe it is that his heart stopped beating normally,” Apala explained. “It just fluttered or quivered and no blood was pumping and his brain wasn’t getting any oxygen.”
“I thought I was at home, asleep and having a nightmare where I was suffocating,” Ferguson said, of his heart attack. “I kept trying to bring my hand up and get whatever was over my mouth off because I thought that would help me breathe. Every time I brought my hand up, something would pull it back down.”
What he didn’t know was that it was an oxygen mask over his mouth, and it was Kanady who kept pulling his hand away.
“Then when that didn’t work I tried to sit up because I was sure that I would be able to wake up if I could just sit up,” Ferguson continued. “When I finally did wake up, I was in a strange room surrounded by people. I had no idea what was going on.”
Apala said nothing showed up on the monitor at first, but by the time he was done hooking up the machine the alarm was going off and Ferguson wasn’t responding. They immediately left for the hospital but had to use the defibrillator on Ferguson three times before his heart started beating again.
“We shocked him once and checked, but there was no pulse so we shocked him again and still nothing,” said Apala. “After the third time, we got a faint beat but we were still having to help him breathe.”
“Then, all of a sudden, his heart just picked up again,” said Kanady.
As the three paramedics described the scene, Ferguson lowered his head and became choked up.
Kanady placed his hand on Ferguson’s arm and said, “He was just in the right place at the right time. If we hadn’t been called in for his cut, he wouldn’t have made it.”
And he is right. According to webmd.com, only two-percent of people who have this kind of heart attack survive because of how quickly it stops the heart. Ferguson’s brain went three to five minutes without oxygen and had he not been in the ambulance where there was a defibrillator, he very well could have died.
When Ferguson was stabilized at Harris Methodist Erath County Hospital, CareFlite was called and he was transported to Harris Methodist Fort Worth. He was discharged last Thursday and is recovering at home.
While it is possible he may come back to duty in a few months, Ferguson is just thankful that he’s alive.
“I call this my lucky cut,” Ferguson said. “There is no doubt in my mind I’d be dead if it hadn’t been for these guys.”