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North Huntingdon man meets, thanks those who saved his life

| Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, 1:48 p.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Ross McClintock accepts a Sudden Cardiace Arrest Association of America survivor certificate and pin from North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue executive director Shane Spielvogle.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
In a Friday reception at North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue, survivor Ross McClintock, right, thanks passersby, from left, Bryan Evans, Chuck Fessler, Ashley Novacek and Haley Sass, who performed CPR when he suffered cardiac arrest on Clay Pike on Sept. 6.

Ross McClintock is thankful for his life and those who saved it.

McClintock, 66, of North Huntingdon Township experienced cardiac arrest while driving home on Clay Pike after a routine run at Indian Lake Park on Sept. 6.

“It was a beautiful day, a day like today,” McClintock said Friday. “I got done with my run. I stretched ... And I don't remember anything after that until Sunday.”

The events that McClintock can't recall are a blur — even to those who came to his aid.

McClintock learned about the “five minutes that seemed like forever” during an evening reception at the North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue base, where he formally met the passersby who initiated CPR, called 911 and kept track of his condition until medics arrived.

McClintock visited the North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue base last week to meet a few of the medics who took part in his revival, but he wanted to get to know the others. Shane Spielvogle, the ambulance company's executive director, offered the base's community room for Friday's thank-you reception.

There, McClintock listened as Bryan Evans of Irwin, Chuck Fessler of Ardara, Ashley Novacek of Sutersville and Haley Sass of North Huntingdon Township talked about the rescue.

Fessler, who knew McClintock from church, was driving behind him when he stopped in the middle of the road without warning. He got out to help.

“I could see that he had his fists clenched,” he recalled. “His breathing was labored. He was gurgling. It wasn't pretty. I carried him out of the car and put him on the grass.”

A homeowner came outside and spoke with 911 dispatchers as Fessler began CPR. Evans was next on scene. Then Sass and Novacek — both nurses.

After several sets of chest compressions and forced breath, McClintock appeared to come in and out of consciousness.

“You were fighting, man. Fighting hard,” Evans told McClintock. “When you came up like that, I knew you were still with us.”

When the North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue crew arrived — Spielvogle, paramedics John Tirpak and Ryan Senica, EMT Eric Friez and Allegheny General Hospital response medic Delmar Black — McClintock required defibrillation. He was shocked once, and regained a slow heart beat.

Treatments at Forbes Regional and UPMC Shadyside hospitals have fitted McClintock with a pacemaker and internal defibrillator. He had a previous cardiac episode 21 years ago.

“This is an excellent example of how community members, who are trained in CPR and willing to get involved, can make a life-saving difference in the chain of survival,” Spielvogle said on Friday as he presented commendations to his staff, the helpful bystanders and McClintock.

Through the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association of America, he secured certificates and pins. The emergency medical personnel received honor bars for their uniform, and the passersby received hero pins. McClintock earned a survivor pin.

McClintock also offered a token of thanks — dinner and small mementos to everyone who had helped him during his cardiac emergency.

“When you look at these, don't think of me,” he said, fighting back tears. “I want you to think of how special you all are.”

McClintock emphasized that Friday's reception was not about him. It was intended to lift up those who saved him.

“This is about people doing what they're trained to do in the case of the paramedics and EMTs,” McClintock said. “These people who stopped, they may have been trained but they probably never thought they were going to save someone's life.”

Novacek said emergency medical care is different in the hospital than in an unexpected scenario.

“I'd never seen an accident. I'd never been in an emergency situation,” she said. “You just know you have to stop. You know you have to help.”

McClintock said he was struggling to find the right words to share the thanks he and his family feel. He was joined Friday by his wife of 42 years, Connie, their children Craig (Shauna) and Jeff (Jennifer) and grandchildren Benjamin, Tyler and Jack.

“It's not that they saved Ross McClintock,” he said. “They saved a husband. They saved a father. They saved a grandfather. That's what makes it special.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or