A community in Vermont's Chittenden County praised the team of first responders who leaped into action last fall to save a police chief's life.
"I was dead," Chief Al Buck of the Richmond Police Department said Wednesday, referring to Oct. 20, 2017. "They told my wife I wasn't going to make it."
Buck, 60, who had a long career with Vermont State Police before joining the town of Richmond, suffered a major heart attack while chasing burglary suspects in a high-speed pursuit.
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Buck managed to pull over safely in his police vehicle, but he blacked out.
A state trooper behind Buck in the pursuit learned from dispatchers that the chief's cruiser was outfitted with a defibrillator.
Richmond is what is known as a HeartSafe Community, because it has taken steps to provide greater access to emergency cardiovascular care — including through the addition of defibrillators in places like the town office and in police vehicles.
While Sgt. Paul Ravelin worked to deploy that device, the neighboring town's fire chief — who just happened to be in the area – did mouth-to-mouth on Buck until the ambulance squad got to the scene to continue life-saving measures.
"Fate was with me that day," Buck said of the support and equipment that was available to save his life.
Today, the chief said he is physically doing better than before.
He honored his new personal heroes at a luncheon Wednesday, awarding them with a lifesaving pin, a certificate of appreciation and letters of thanks.
Buck expressed his gratitude to Sgt. Ravelin, who first jolted his heart, to Chief Mike Gervia of the Bolton Fire Department, who worked on his breathing, and to the Richmond EMS crew who never gave up on him while racing to the hospital.
The Richmond Rescue personnel gave Buck eight shocks with a defibrillator on top of the two he received from Ravelin, Richmond Rescue paramedic Sarah Lamb said, delivering him to the University of Vermont Medical Center with a pulse.
"I'm here today because of what these people in this room and this table did to me that day," Buck said of the guests of honor at the luncheon in the town offices.
The rescuers said they did for Buck what they would have done for anyone in distress.
"I've known Al for a long time," Chief Gervia said, reflecting on how happy he is to see him alive and well today. "It's pretty special."
"All the first responders – the firefighters, rescue personnel, and other law enforcement officers — being part of that team is probably the most rewarding," Sgt. Ravelin said.
Chief Buck recently announced his retirement to leaders of the town of Richmond, saying after 41 years in law enforcement, it's time to focus on his family.
"And my health and what's good for me at this point," Buck added in an interview with necn. "And that's what I'm going to do."
Buck said he expects to make time to hunt and fish more in his next chapter, and should have plenty of life to live, all because of his fellow first responders.
"I'm very thankful for that," Buck said of the care and support he received the day of his medical emergency.
Also at Wednesday's luncheon, the town of Richmond received a special donation from the New England regional office of the Wisconsin-based company Cardiac Science.
Cardiac Science gave the Richmond Police Department one of its new defibrillators, which will go into the one remaining Richmond cruiser that had not yet been outfitted with the life-saving tool.
A company representative said the story of Chief Buck demonstrates just how game-changing a defibrillator can be in a cardiac emergency.