Tanya Wemett hugs her husband Jeff soon after recalling in detail how he suffered a massive heart attack in October, and the fast action of North Warren Emergency Squad personnel — and her son — saved his life. Observing the hug is Laura Eklund (right), who was behind the wheel of the ambulance that drove Jeff to Glens Falls Hospital.
Gazing at her husband Jeff, Tanya Wemett’s eyes filled with tears.
“He’s my miracle man,” she said, recalling recently how the fast actions of North Warren Emergency Medical Services personnel saved his life when he suffered a full heart attack in late October.
Jeff Wemett looked back at Tanya and smiled.
“It’s good to be alive,” he replied.
Tanya and Jeff joined North Warren EMT Laura Eklund Feb. 23 in recalling how emergency responders, doctors, and the Wemett’s son Nolan brought Jeff back from the edge of death.
Mid-day on Oct. 29, Jeff Wemett had been in the garage of the Wemett’s Landon Hill Road home, changing tires on the family jeep.
Jeff walked back into their home, telling Tanya he was experiencing some heartburn.
Knowing that Jeff rarely complains, Tanya knew something was wrong.
Minutes later, he was seated in a chair, eating a tuna fish sandwich.
“I was sitting watching television, and all of a sudden, I got chest pains,” Jeff recalled. It was 1:30 p.m. or so.
Jeff was feeling numb, experiencing tingling sensations in his body. It would be his last memory of the day.
Tanya then asked Jeff if he wanted her to drive him to get medical attention. Jeff blurted out one word in response:
“Ambulance,” he said in a near-grunt.
“I called 911 — I was just a basket case,” Tanya recalled. A Warren County dispatcher contacted the North Warren squad, relaying the message that a man in his early 50s on Landon Hill Road was having difficulty breathing.
All of a sudden, Jeff started twitching, and Tanya dialed 911 a second time, reporting that Jeff was apparently experiencing a full cardiac arrest. The dispatcher repeated the alert, upgrading the severity of Jeff’s condition.
Jeff was not breathing.
Jeff and Tanya’s son Nolan, 23, then pulled Jeff out of his chair as Tanya supported his head.
With Jeff now lying on the floor, Nolan started pushing on his chest, administering chest compressions so his father would resume breathing.
Within minutes, members of the fire department and the North Warren Emergency Squad arrived.
Eklund provided emotional support while others attended to Jeff’s medical crisis.
Jeff was trying to breath, but couldn’t exhale, Tanya recalled.
“It panicked me — I didn't know what we could do,” Tanya said.
But paramedics Jason Paul and Kevin White knew exactly what was needed. They administered life-saving drugs, Tanya said.
“Jason remain so calm, and he did what he had to do, step by step,” she recalled, fighting back tears. “They did what they had to do, and didn’t give up on Jeff — everybody was fantastic.”
Members of the latter group administered drugs to stimulate Jeff’s heart.
“And thank God Nolan did what he did,” Eklund added, referring to the chest compressions.
“I am so proud of him,” Tanya replied.
Among the responders on the scene attending to Jeff’s needs were Jason Paul; Bill LaPierre; Kevin Feldt; Kevin White; plus local firefighters Jack, Chelsea and Pam Crossman; and Laurie Bartlett; Pete Cafaro and Dennis Harppinger.
The EMTs loaded Jeff into the ambulance, attached monitoring equipment, and gave him chest compressions.
Jason Paul and Kevin White administered life saving drugs — one of them squeezed a bulb that pumped oxygen into Jeff’s lungs while they both watched his condition on the monitor.
Tanya rode shotgun in the ambulance —and Eklund was at the wheel.
In the rearview mirror, Eklund saw the paramedics work to save Jeff’s life, she recalled.
“At first they were pumping air into his lungs with the bag valve, then I saw them stop — replacing the hand pump with an oxygen mask,” Eklund recalled.
“I said, YES, he’s got a pulse,” she added with a thumbs-up gesture.
Arriving at Glens Falls Hospital, the doctors were poised at the side door, waiting.
Immediately, Jeff was wrapped in ice blankets to induce therapeutic hypothermia, slowing his heart rate down, Eklund said.
In the coming hours, Jeff’s brothers and sisters gathered at the hospital, and Jeff was put into an induced coma for nearly two days so the doctors could conduct their surgical procedures with minimum risk. Having suffered between 85 and 90 percent blockage in his main arteries, he had four stents installed in his chest.
Jeff was in the hospital three weeks, followed by recuperation at home, Tanya said.
“For days after he got home, I was afraid to go to sleep,” she said. “I was nervous about what might happen to Jeff.”
Now it was Tanya’s turn for help from the North Warren squad. She received assurances and emotional support from squad members, so she could both sleep, and cope while awake, she said.
“The squad members were always on the other end of the phone, so I could cry,” she said.
Since then, Jeff’s been busy several days a week undergoing physical therapy at the hospital’s cardio rehabilitation center. He said he was looking forward to get back to work pruning and removing trees for his employer, Asplundh Tree Experts.
Tanya Wemett said she was forever grateful to those who saved Jeff’s life.
“Now I have more heroes than I ever thought I would — for a lifetime,” she said.