Heart-stopping: Couple thanks DC firefighters, paramedics after close call

Berry and Eileen Murphy were greeted by first responders at Engine 28, on upper Connecticut Avenue NW, on Tuesday. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

A hug, a word of thanks, fresh-baked bread and a clean bill of health — firefighters and paramedics at a District of Columbia firehouse had a warm reunion Tuesday with a man whose life they helped save three months ago.

Berry and Eileen Murphy were greeted by first responders at Engine 28 on upper Connecticut Avenue NW.

“I look a bit different than I did that day, don’t I?” quipped Berry, as he had the chance to say thank you to those who helped save his life on Feb. 10.

“It was a typical Sunday morning, we were out for a walk, and I felt some tightness in my chest, so we went home,” he said, in the driveway in front of the firehouse. “I was texting my doctor, to say ‘should I go to the E.R.,’ and apparently I told my wife I wasn’t feeling very well, then I went into cardiac arrest.”

Eileen Murphy, who has had cardiopulmonary resuscitation training, knew what to do.

“Instinct kicks over when you realize the person you love is dying in front of your face,” she said. “The first thing you have to do is call 911, because if you don’t get help coming to you, you’re never going to survive.”

Murphy said she felt supported by the 911 call taker, as she began the breaths and chest compressions required in CPR.

“She started counting with me, and then was very reassuring, and said you guys were on your way,” Eileen Murphy said, as the crew stood in a half-circle around her.

Within a few minutes of the 911 call, first responders administered a shock from a defibrillator. By the time ambulances arrived, her husband had a strong pulse and had started breathing.

When an intravenous tube was inserted, Berry tried to stand up, was confused, and unclear as to what happened to him.

“I apparently sat up and said, ‘OK, I’m fine, you guys can leave now,'” he said. “Then they took me to the hospital.”

Berry Murphy said cardiologists determined he “had one minor blockage in an artery, and they cleaned it out and fixed it, and thankfully, these guys got there so quickly there was no damage to the heart.”

He told the first responders his cardiologist gave him a clean bill of health.

“He said, ‘See you in six months.'”

Eileen Murphy had a shopping bag full of bread she’d baked in appreciation for those who helped save her husband’s life: Sgt. Richard Sheltra, paramedic Cpt. Ellen Kurland, firefighter technicians Jerome Greene and Anthony Mullins, firefighter EMTs Messay Bekure, Christopher Henry, Franzeel Willoughby, and firefighter paramedic Matthew Wood.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported from Northwest D.C. 

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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