When the Bethany fire station needed an extra emergency worker for its squad June 26, Elliott Richardson, who was wrapping up one 12-hour shift, volunteered to work another.
For Frederick T. Via Jr., it was a fateful decision. Mr. Richardson saved Mr. Via's life that night after the Ellicott City man suffered -- a heart attack.
Mr. Richardson, a modest man, says he was just doing his job. The 40-year-old Baltimore resident is normally assigned to the Clarksville fire station.
Rescuers got the call to Mr. Via's home on Jay Drive at about 8 p.m. that Friday. Mr. Via, 48, had collapsed on the second-floor of his home trying to reach his bedroom.
A husband, father of three and defense department analyst at Fort Meade, he had experienced sharp chest pains while driving home from a gym in Fort Meade minutes earlier.
"For some reason, I wasn't getting air," Mr. Via said, recalling his near-fatal heart attack. "The pain just got greater and greater and my breathing got shallower and shallower."
Emergency workers gave him oxygen and tried to stabilize him for the ride to Howard County General Hospital.
"Elliott Richardson told me to hold on," Mr. Via recalled. "He told me not to fall asleep. I told him I didn't think I could because the pain was so great."
At some point on Route 108, his vital signs deteriorated and "everything went blank," Mr. Via said. He had a cardiac arrest and lost consciousness.
Mr. Richardson said he pounded the Mr. Via's chest once. He also used electric shock paddles unsuccessfully three times.
When that failed, he began CPR, which started Mr. Via's heart beating again.
:. Mr. Via was taken to Howard County General
Hospital and later transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Doctors determined a blood clot in an artery triggered the heart attack, Mr. Via said.
He was released July 4.
"There's no doubt in my mind that without intervention from our ** personnel the outlook would not be as positive as it is today," said Chief Donald R. Howell, a spokesman for Howard County Fire and Rescue Services.
While Mr. Via was hospitalized, Mr. Richardson tried to visit him ,, several times to apologize for the burns the electric paddles created.
But Mr. Via was asleep and the two did not met again until Monday, when they posed together for a photograph.
Frederick Via III, who rode in the ambulance, said he knew his father was in trouble.
"I was scared out of my wits," he said. "When my father's hearstopped beating on Route 108, I thought he was dead."
Mr. Via said he's written the fire department praising MrRichardson's quick actions.
He said he's grateful to Mr. Richardson for giving him a "second chance".
"It's like a rebirth," Mr. Via said. "It's an opportunity to assess what I've been doing and to assess the valuable things in my life."