POTSDAM — When 66-year-old Richard Peters Sr. collapsed in the Save a Lot on Market Street where he was employed for 17 years, he didn’t think he would survive.
In fact, he was dead for 70 minutes, according to his son.
That was around 1:30 p.m. on May 16. Eight minutes later, the Potsdam Volunteer Rescue Squad arrived on the scene and began CPR, a procedure that resulted in Mr. Peters being able to sit before the first responders that saved his life on Aug. 14 in a special ceremony in the Village Board Room in the Civic Center.
The event was held to commemorate the efforts of rescue squad members Jody Agee, Sean Murphy, EMT student Jacob Bellucci, Dan Jaremzuk, Jon Mitchell, Scott Grant and Potsdam Police Department Sgt. John Benson and Officer Matt Seymour.
Reflected in a Letter of Commendation Life Saving Award given to each of the first responders, Potsdam Rescue Chief Timothy A. Rivers, who organized the ceremony and handed out the awards, recounted the incident. Mr. Peters was with his son, Richard Peters II, throughout the ceremony. He said he had passed out while working in the meat room in the rear of the grocery store. His son said he was determined to have had a clot, pneumonia and his blood was toxic.
Chief Rivers said he was found in the cooler at that business, unresponsive and not breathing.
“Within three minutes of being dispatched Jody Agee, Sean Murphy and Jacob Bellucci were on scene and found the patient pulseless and apneic,” Chief Rivers read from the letter. “CPR was immediately started. AED pads were placed on the patient and defibrillation performed by Jody Agee.”
With additional help requested, Mr. Jaremzuk, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Grant, Sgt. Benson and Officer Seymour arrived on the scene to assist with medical intervention while CPR and defibrillation continued throughout the transport to Canton-Potsdam Hospital.
Mr. Peters was transferred to the emergency room and was later airlifted to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse where he was in a coma for several weeks. He was released from the hospital after three months.
“Two weeks ago members brought that gentlemen home to his family,” Chief Rivers said in a prior email to Potsdam Police Chief Mark R. Murray. “I want to give this letter of commendation to Sgt. John Benson and Officer Matt Seymour for their assistance and professionalism at the scene. With their help this family is still able to say good morning and good night to this father, grandfather, brother and husband.”
Chief Murray also awarded Sgt. Benson and Officer Seymour with a plaque and certificate, commending them for their efforts on May 16.
“It’s not a rare occasion for our volunteers or police to help people, obviously, and make a positive impact on or community,” Chief Murray said. “However, it is a rare occasion that we are here tonight, to see the people that we actually help through a critical incident, be here because of the direct actions of our volunteers and our police department or fire department, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to honor the acts of these heroes tonight.”
That second person helped by the rescue squad, 55-year-old Paul Cole, was reported as having collapsed with chest pain on Aug. 2.
Potsdam Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Rivers, Jody Agree and Jacob Bellucci responded and Mr. Cole flatlined four times. He was brought back every time.
Mr. Cole said he always knew the first responders were around, but never recognized their value until his life depended on it.
“I never appreciated them as much as I appreciate them now,” he said. “I really like the way things worked out though. It started with my son calling 911 . . . But if it wasn’t for them and their timing . . .”
Mr. Cole was flown from Canton-Potsdam Hospital to Plattsburgh where he arrived on a Friday, underwent surgery and was released Monday.
His wife, Patrice, said “within a couple of hours of his surgery, he was right as rain. It was like, wow. It’s a blessing. It could have been a different day, if it weren’t for them.”
She said Chief Rivers told her he never saw somebody flatline that many times and survive.
Mr. Cole’s son, Brian, 21, said it was the worst day of his life, thinking his father was going to die.
“It definitely makes you value your time, because you could be gone like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.