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Phoenix Awards honors life-saving responders

Posted at 6:02 PM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 01:27:23-04

First responders had emotional reunions with patients whose lives they saved at the Phoenix Awards. The biannual event was held Monday at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers to honor those who resuscitated patients who had heart failure.

Joseph Simone was working security at a restaurant in downtown Fort Myers last November, when he suddenly went into cardiac arrest.

"I had a heart attack, and went down and that 's the last thing I remember," Simone said.

Luckily Michelle Williamson, on off-duty Collie County paramedic, was dropping something off for her daughter who works at the restaurant. Williamson performed CPR on Simone until Lee County paramedics arrived.

"My grandson's father died when he was 3 months old, and now he's a year old," Williamson said. "He worked at that same restaurant, so I like to think it was him pushing me towards (Simone.)"

Williamson and dozens of other Southwest Florida first responders were presented the Phoenix Award at the ceremony, with many patients like Simone sharing the stage.

"EMS contacted me and said, would I like to give the award to the person who saved my life?" Simone recalled. "And I said absolutely, when do I go?"

Simone said that it took about 2 months before he fully recovered from his heart attack.

For Williamson, the best part is getting to see how patients like like Simone are doing after a major health crisis.

"It's very rewarding to know the end of the story, and a lot of time we don't," she said. "We drop someone off at the hospital, and that's the last thing we know."

Now that they've met under better circumstances, Simone doesn't mind giving his rescuer a jab in the ribs.

"After she heard my first two ribs crack when she did CPR, do you think she might have let up a little bit?" he joked. "But no, she didn't. She went on to continue to save my life."

"That's how you know you're doing it right," Williamson laughed.