Sometimes Your Legacy Isn't What You Want It To Be


Lebanon resident Terry Susong retired as a professional firefighter back in 1995 from Middletown Fire Department. “Some firemen after leaving the department are finished with their past life and move on to other things and never look back. The majority of us have it in our blood and carry the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly for the reminding breathing moments of our lives. My goal is to give you, the reader, a small look inside the happenings of the firehouse and the firefighters.

"Firefighters are a different breed of people. Think about it ... anyone who is running into a building that everyone else is running out of ... that's just a different way of thinking!

Most firefighter want to be able to leave a legacy, something that people, especially other firefighters, will talk about long after you are dead and gone. Here's my legacy. I’d rather it had been something else, but... “It is, what it is.”

One sunny afternoon an emergency call came in from a house on Burbank Street. A man was having chest pains.  Engine Three and the ambulance both arrived at the same time. Our three-man crew headed into the house to support the squad men.

Herb and Greg, two of the Engine Three men, started to evaluate the suffering man. He seemed to be alert. The local hospital was only a mile away, and I'd been through this same situation many times.  Check vitals, alertness, then ... “load and go!”

However, Herb, our paramedic, decided that he wanted to practice his skills. He started an IV and hooked up the heart monitor. This took two to three minutes to set up. 

Poor man could have been at the hospital in that length of time, I thought. Then, while I was standing behind the suffering man, his head tilted back and he stopped breathing. 

Suddenly, we all went into fast motion. We put him on the cot. Greg and I started CPR. Herb got on the radio and told our nearby hospital to set up the cardiac room. “We have a code blue coming in,” he shouted.

In the ambulance, Greg was at the head giving oxygen, while I was performing CPR. Herb was driving.

With lights and sirens blaring, we pulled into the hospital parking lot in less than one minute. I had to stop CPR momentarily to open the squad doors. Then, I got the biggest surprise of my short career. When I pulled the cot from the ambulance,  its legs collapsed. Before anyone could do anything, the heart attack victim slid off the cot onto the tarmac. 

We had no time to worry about what went wrong with the equipment. Instead we did what we needed to do...scoop him up, place him back on the cot and restart CPR.

In the cardiac room, everyone worked their particular job to place the patient on the examining table. After the doctor had everything in place, he ordered us to stop CPR. 

To everyone’s surprise, the heart monitor showed a perfect heartbeat! 

The doctor looked at us and asked, “Why did you bring this man in here? His heart is beating better than mine!”

We all kept quiet about the little fall in the parking lot. Our conclusion: The jolt from the heart attack victim's fall must have knocked his heart back in sync.

On the ride back to the firehouse I said, “OK guys, we are the only ones that know about his fall to the pavement. I would appreciate it if you would keep it that way, OK?” 

In unison, they all said, “Sure, Woody. We won’t say a word!”

When we got back to the firehouse, the door to the TV room swung open and so did Greg’s mouth. “You will never guess how Woody just saved a man’s life!” 

Greg not only "let the cat out of the bag," he  opened up “a can of worms” that would give me my legacy. An investigation was started to find out what caused me to drop the patient. 

No one seemed to care that I saved his life. 

The chief asked me for my side of the story, and I told him the truth. I told him that we had just received the new non-locking cot a few days ago and that I was on vacation when the training was given. The old cots had legs on them that would lock into place without pulling a lever. 

He accepted my excuse. 

However, my story does not end here. While at the firehouse I was known as Woody, my real name is Terry Susong. So, to my surprise at the next training class, and many training classes after that “The Susong Maneuver” was put into place. The classes were taught to all rookies on “how NOT” to unload a patient from the back of an ambulance. 

"The Susong Maneuver” stayed with me for the remainder of my career and beyond.

Just a few weeks before I retired, we had a medical run on Chief Dale at his home. He thought that he was having a heart attack. Upon our arrival he was feeling a lot better. He decided to go to the hospital and get checked out. 

We placed him on the cot. After the legs of the cot snapped in place, Chief Dale looked up at me with a smile on his face and said, “Hey Woody, don’t drop me!”

Ten years after I retired, I went back to the firehouse for a retirement party for Chief John. I was well into a big piece of retirement cake and a cup of firehouse coffee when, one of the firemen sat down beside me. 

“Woody, one of our rookies that came on the department last year would like to meet you. He has heard so much about the “Susong Maneuver,” and he wants to know if it is true.”

I said to myself OK, here comes another set up. It just never stops!

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