Over 170 first responders in Collier County were honored Monday for their life-saving efforts at the annual Phoenix Award ceremony at the James V. Mudd Emergency Services Center on Lely Cultural Parkway. Several survivors whose lives were saved by the awardees were also present.
"You don't know what it means to me to be here," James Lane of Marco Island told those gathered at the ceremony, choking back tears.
He was there to thank the first responders who saved his life when he went into cardiac arrest on October 30. Lane's wife Litha Berger said she called 911 when she found him lying on their living room floor.
"He was blue/black in the face, gasping for air," Berger recalled.
Police officers Mike Vogel and Steve Gaskill arrived in less than five minutes.
"That made the difference," Berger said.
The officers, who are trained in resuscitation techniques, had a defibrillator.
"We shocked him, and it brought a pulse back to him," Vogel said.
"Then later on I flat-lined again," Lane added. "It was the EMT guys that brought me back."
Vogel and Gaskill spent some time after the award ceremony chatting with Lane and Berger. Tabatha Butcher, chief of Collier County Emergency Medical Services, said meeting the survivors is rewarding for the first responders.
"It's very nice for them to be able to meet the person that they actually saved," Butcher said. "It makes them feel that what they do each day is very important."
Lane was in a coma for 14 days after his cardiac arrest, and said he was not even aware when his sons flew in from Texas to say their goodbyes.
He said that his doctor was surprised at how well he has recovered - he has no diagnosed brain damage or other serious after effects from the ordeal - and believes he owes it to the quick actions of the first responders.
"I am purely blessed and grateful," Lane said.