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Houston-area man reunites with those who helped save him

November 20, 2018 GMT

First responders respond to a lot of emergency calls, but on Friday, Nov. 16, eight of them were recognized for their service and met a man whose life they had helped save a month earlier.

When Gee Fung began to feel ill during lunch on Oct. 17, his friend called his wife Deborah. Fung is diabetic, so when Deborah heard her husband slurring his speech, she recognized the gravity of the situation and immediately dialed 911.

Senior 911 Telecommunicator Jamicka LaCour took the call. After that, Engine 75 Capt. Kenneth Willingham, EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) Randy Ostwalt, EMT Donald Richardson; Paramedic Firefighter Zachary Perez; Medic 78 Paramedics Engineer/Operator Tyler Renken and Firefighter Oscar Pedraza; EMS (Emergency Medical Service) Supervisor 69 - Paramedic Capt. J.J. Rojas all responded.

At Houston Fire Department Station 75 on Nov. 16, each of them received a commendation as well as kind words and hugs from the Fungs and their friends and family.

Dr. David Persse, HFD EMS director and public health authority, said Deborah’s quick decision to call 911 was critical because it allowed the emergency medical service professionals to step in, do their jobs and help her husband.

“When an emergency occurs, you talk about the first responders. You’ve got the police officers and firefighters, but there’s really a first responder before that,” he said. “That’s the person who recognizes the emergency and then activates the system.”

Persse said his people “train like crazy” for situations like Fung’s. Thankfully, cases like that do not happen all the time, he said, but first responders are there ready to serve when they do.

Fung said he was glad to recognize the efforts that saved his life: were it not for his friend who called his wife or for the first responders, it could have been a very different story, he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, the other ones, they are the heroes and my friend who was there. If it wasn’t because of him, I wouldn’t be here,” Fung said.

The medical emergency came just a week before Fung and Deborah celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on Oct. 23. Looking back, Deborah said that day has given her a deeper appreciation for the time she and her family are given.

“You just never know, so the take-home lesson for me is always treasure every day, every moment. Don’t take anything, anyone for granted because you never know,” she said.

Willingham said it was great for his team to see the community’s appreciation and also the end result of that afternoon in October — how their training and daily actions really do impact the lives of those they serve.

“It’s good to see that the people appreciate us. You know we work hard, and it’s good to every once in a while see that your hard works pays off,” Willingham said. “We know it pays off, but when you actually get to see it, it means a whole lot.”