On Black Friday last November, 27-year-old Margaret Bishop was out for a run with her sister and boyfriend when she suddenly collapsed. It was called in as a seizure, but it turned out to be a frightening way to discover she had a congenital heart defect.
As her loved ones stood on the 1400 block of Rhode Island Avenue Northwest, her heart had completely stopped beating.
It only took a few minutes for paramedics from Engine 16, a firehouse at 13th and K streets Northwest, to get there, and only three minutes of CPR to bring her back to life. Friday, Bishop and her family came to the firehouse, accompanied by a whole lot of barbecue, to say thanks to the crew that saved her.
“I’m so grateful to the team here. I literally owe them my life,” Bishop said during a very quick speech. “Not much more I can say with that, otherwise, I’ll start crying.”
Bishop and D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly then gave out special challenge coins to the crew that saved her.
The department established the Cardiac Arrest Save coin as a symbol to present to our members when they save the life of a person in cardiac arrest, Donnelly said.
“These coins represent excellence in pre-hospital care and they’re only given in situations where the patient is able to walk out of the hospital later,” or at least leave in a wheelchair, he added.
Before waking up in the hospital, Bishop said she doesn’t remember anything after Thanksgiving. Even now, she admits it’s “bizarre” and doesn’t always make sense.
“Definitely weird when you go from a holiday, so much family, and then you wake up in the hospital,” she said.
But the paramedics who arrived there first remember everything.
“It feels good … because a lot of times you don’t really know what happens to the patients after the fact,” said firefighter Kenneth Bryant, a five-year veteran who was presented with his first ever Cardiac Arrest Save coin. “You just take them to the hospital and once they start doing their thing you’ve got to go out to the next call.”
He expected he would give the coin to his mother to hold on to.
“We remember all of these, whether positive outcome or even the negative outcome, we remember them,” said Lt. Peter Elliott, who arrived at the scene with Bryant.
He’s grateful for the fact that he’s been awarded more than one of these coins, and said it was important for Bryant to get his.
“For something like this, where it was such a major positive outcome with a young woman that survived a cardiac arrest, that’s not necessarily always the trend. This will stick with him forever. He’ll remember his first coin,” Elliott said. “To take that little bit of positive energy into the next one and the next one and throughout his next 25-30 years is really important.”
What’s also unique about this story is that Bishop’s family already had a strong relationship with the fire department. Her family owns D.C.’s Rocklands Barbecue, and over the years they’ve donated lots of money and lots of food to the D.C. Burn Foundation, which helps injured firefighters and children who get burned in fires.
“What they’ve done for us over the past 10 years, is probably donate over $50,000 to our burn foundation,” said Jason Woods, who leads the foundation. “It’s not very often that you’re paying something back to someone who has been so supportive of you over the years.”
And that’s why Bishop and her dad brought barbecue to the firehouse, and it likely tasted even a little bit better this time.