Kevin Kamenetz awoke in his Owings Mills home feeling tightness in his chest early Thursday. Rather than call 911 for an ambulance, he chose to drive about two miles away to the Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company where he had been known to get snowballs with his family.
The two-term county executive, just 60 years old, died about an hour later of cardiac arrest.
Officials said they don’t know why he chose to go to the fire station, tucked away off scenic Greenspring Avenue. The fire station is about 10 miles northwest — a nearly 20-minute drive — to St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson where he died.
“Why he made that decision, as opposed to calling 911 from home, I can’t answer that question,” said fire department spokeswoman Elise Armacost at a new conference at the department’s headquarters Thursday.
The county’s 911 center received Kamenetz’s call shortly after 2 a.m., “complaining of tightness in the chest,” Armacost said. “He said on the call that he was making the call from the Chestnut Ridge Fire Company,” where he had driven from his home with his wife.
The station was mostly quiet Thursday. The trucks and ambulances remained parked inside the five-bay firehouse. Outside, a station sign read, “May Forecast 100% Chance of Snowballs.”
No one from the station responded to requests for comment. But on the Chestnut Ridge Facebook page, members wrote: “Kevin was very supportive of the volunteers; Stopping by the snowball stand with his family and attending our open houses/banquets. Kevin always offered an open ear to our Captain, President and members as he made himself accessible and easy to talk to because he truly cared for his community.”
The 911 call awoke two volunteer members who were sleeping at the station. They went down to the parking lot where they met Kamenetz and his wife. He was conscious and speaking to the EMTs, Armacost said.
They took him into the station for an evaluation and basic life support, but “his condition quickly deteriorated,” she said.
Kamenetz lost consciousness, his pulse and his heart stopped beating, Armacost said.
The volunteer EMTs provided CPR manually and using a Lucas CPR device, a piece of equipment that sits above the body and provides chest compressions. They also used an external defibrillator to restore his heart rate by delivering electronic shocks to his heart.
The volunteers managed to restore his pulse and administer an IV to prepare him before medical personnel from the county’s career department Garrison responded to the Chestnut Ridge station.
But despite their efforts, Kamenetz’s condition continued to worsen.
The volunteers continued to preform CPR and use defibrillation. The volunteers ended up using the defibrillator on him three times.
The Medic 19 unit arrived from the Garrison station about five miles away and immediately began treating him, including giving him cardiac medications, Armacost said.
The team included an EMT driver, a paramedic, and an EMS supervisor rode with him to the hospital.
Also in the ambulance was Andrew N. Pollak, the department’s Medical Director of the Baltimore County Fire Department. Pollak also serves as the chair of orthopedics for the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“There was a call made to the medical director. Not sure how,” Emergency Medical Services Fire Director Richard Schenning said.
Schenning said Pollak often responds to calls, and sometimes listens to the scanner. He might have responded on his own, he said.
In the back of the ambulance, the team continued CPR and using the defibrillator.
He said it would have made little difference whether Kamenetz had been treated by the volunteer members or the career unit. He said medical personnel at the hospital would have provided similar treatment in the early stages.
“For the majority of calls, when we get a cardiac arrest, there is very little difference in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the treatment we are going to provide,” Schenning said.
“That doesn’t change whether you are in the hospital or out of the hospital,” he said of the CPR and defibrillation efforts.
The county executive was in full cardiac arrest when he arrived at the hospital, said Dr. Gail Cunningham, the chief medical officer at St. Joseph. He was pronounced dead at 3:22 a.m.
Cunningham said it’s difficult to say whether stopping at the fire station affected his care.
“I really don’t know. Obviously, with these conditions, time is everything,” she said.
Armacost said county officials are in shock.
“By all accounts, he appeared to be in excellent health," she said. "That makes this even more of a shock. … This was not a person who had unhealthy habits.”