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New Orleans man shows appreciation to Medical Rescue Team South Authority

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Bob Tucker of New Orleans checks on his grillades and grits, a dish he made to say thank members of MRTSA who saved his life when he was on business in the Pittsburgh area.
MRTSA paramedic David Terkel (left) dices a tomato while Bob Tucker of New Orleans cuts open an avocado. Tucker wanted to make an authentic cuisine for Terkel and other MRTSA paramedics for saving his life while on business in the Pittsburgh area.
Bob Tucker (right) thanks MRTSA paramedic Norm Feehan for helping to save his life.
Paramedics (from left) David Terkel, Norm Feehan and Jesse Siefert gather around the kitchen with Bob Tucker (second from right)‚ at Medical Rescue Team South Authority, where Tucker made an authentic cuisine to thank them for saving his life.

The ‘Thank You's' are few and far between.

At times, a person will write a letter showing his or her gratitude, or there's the infrequent fruit basket that shows up at the doorstep of Medical Rescue Team South Authority.

Bob Tucker was different.

The New Orleans man traveled back to Pittsburgh to prepare a traditional southern-style meal, complete with grillades and grits, for the paramedics who saved his life.

“There are very few Bob Tuckers in the world,” said MRTSA paramedic David Terkel, who responded to a call on July 10 where Tucker was in cardiac arrest at the Hampton Inn in Green Tree. “We hear from so many people all of the time, ‘Hey, can I have get your name, I want to tell your boss how great you were.' Then they do nothing. Bob not only wrote a letter, but then he came back here and cooked us all dinner.”

A quick response from paramedics at Medical Rescue Team South Authority — which covers Mt. Lebanon, Whitehall, Baldwin Township, Green Tree, Dormont and Castle Shannon — ultimately helped save his life, he said.

Tucker, 50, was so appreciative that when he returned to the area several weeks later for work, he went to the MRTSA's Mt. Lebanon headquarters to prepare dinner for the life-saving paramedics and their families.

“I wanted to meet them. I wanted to personally shake their hands and thank them,” said Tucker, a loss prevention director for M&M, which oversees thrift stores. “I wanted people to know that they're performing miracles out there every day. I want their families to know, I want the community to know, that they're heroes.”

Tucker visits Pittsburgh as often as four times a year for work.

He said he began working out — doing weight and circuit training and running — several months ago and lost about 20 pounds.

On July 10, Tucker attempted to use a weight room in the basement area of another facility close to the Green Tree hotel. But because of the extreme weather conditions that day, when torrential rains poured flooded much of the region, the facility was closed. He now realized that was a blessing, because many times in the weight room he worked out alone.

Instead, Tucker went to the hotel's fitness area and used the treadmill.

He began to experience tightening in his chest, and was gasping for air.

He went outside for air, but at some point, he said, realized something was wrong.

Tucker waited for a hotel shuttle to return. Then, he decided maybe he could just drive himself to the hospital.

He even changed his shirt as he prepared to go to the nearest hospital. He went to the front desk and began asking for directions, when he realized he couldn't make it anymore.

The last thing he remembers is shouting “call 911.” MRTSA paramedics arrived within four minutes and transported him to St. Clair Hospital, he said.

Tucker still has flashbacks and can remember hearing a paramedic standing over him telling him, “Mr. Tucker, you've had a heart attack. You're going to be OK.”

He found out later that was MRTSA paramedic Jesse Siefert.

Tucker had suffered the “widow maker,” his left anterior artery was blocked, he said.

“It's the most deadly heart attack you can have,” Tucker said.

His wife, Heather, flew to Pittsburgh the next morning to be with him and three days later, he was released from the hospital. The two even enjoyed a dinner on Mt. Washington before returning home.

Now, Tucker is back to his normal workout routine, but with a new outlook.

When telling his friends and neighbors about his heart attack, they said he was lucky. “If you're going to have a heart attack, Pittsburgh is the place to have it,” Tucker's neighbor who oversees pulmonary medicine at a medical center in New Orleans told him.

For Tucker, he's just grateful to the paramedics and others for helping to save his life.

“I get choked up thinking how close I was to death and all of those things that I would have missed,” he said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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