You never know when an emergency is going to happen, but when it does, you’re all the more grateful for those who step in to help.

That’s what Nancy Cass learned when her husband, Fred, was a victim of a sudden, massive heart attack in their Green Valley home in October.

“It was kind of an ordinary day and everything,” Nancy said. Fred, 83, had just returned home from the gym for lunch.

“I remember he was sitting back down in his chair and I decided I was going to put some dishes away…and all of a sudden I heard this awful noise,” Nancy said.

She turned around to find her husband on the floor, “not breathing, totally unresponsive.”

Immediately, Nancy called 911 and began to perform CPR on her husband until Green Valley Fire District crews arrived.

Though she was panicked, she credits the 911 emergency operator with keeping her calm and walking her through chest compressions to the beat of the Bee Gees’ "Stayin’ Alive."

“He was just in my ear, giving me a pep talk the whole time, and he was just so confident and so much in command that I just went along with him,” Nancy recalled. “I’ve never done anything like that before, but I hope I never have to do anything like it again.”

GVFD paramedics arrived moments later and took over. They continued performing CPR and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) before whisking Fred off in an ambulance to Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital.

Another EMT stayed with Nancy to reassure her and eventually drove her car to the hospital. It wasn’t until later, when Fred finally pulled through, that Nancy realized how lucky she and her husband had been.

“It was a massive heart attack that affected his main artery…the doctor said he was in such bad shape that there was even a blockage in another artery that had to be addressed later,” Nancy said.

“And we’re so lucky to have even a small hospital here in Green Valley because when I told the doctor he usually goes to the VA, they told me he likely wouldn’t have survived the trip to Tucson,” she said.

Fred spent the next week at the hospital, and another few days in rehab before returning home, where he continues to recover. He now walks about a half-mile around his neighborhood each day, and considering all he’s been through, Nancy said he’s doing remarkably well.

But both Nancy and Fred acknowledge that he wouldn’t be here if it weren't for the help they received along the way.

“Everyone from the 911 operator to the EMTs coming to the people we met at the hospital – everything just kind of fell in place. Everybody took command, they knew what they were doing, they were very efficient and I’m just very, very grateful to all of them” Nancy said.

On Wednesday, Fire Chief Chuck Wunder recognized the GVFD emergency responders who helped save Cass’ life – Capt. Mark Lytle, and firefighters Wolf Tubach, Brandi Bret and Amanda Tucker – presenting each of them with a life-saving award and a Fire Chief’s Coin of Excellence.

“We recognize their selfless actions during an emergency situation, which resulted in the saving of a human life. Their proper application of training and experience exemplifies their dedication to duty, to preservation of life and service to this community,” Wunder said.

“We’re very proud of these folks for what they’ve done.”

“I’m just so thankful that you guys got here in time,” Nancy said during the ceremony.

“As much as I am,” Fred added.

Mary Glen Hatcher | 520-547-9740

Mary Glen is a North Carolina native who's excited to explore the Tucson area through her reporting with Green Valley News. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media in 2019.

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