Who are your heroes and why?

When asked this question, some choose historical figures like Lincoln. Some pick fictional characters such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Some point to family members. Others select athletes.

Perhaps we should redefine heroes by the way they behave, the legacy they leave, and the difference they make every day in the real world.

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the local heroes of Aetna Ambulance Service, Inc. for the assistance they offered my husband, Douglas Zimmerman. 

Doug collapsed at Charter Oak Landing in Hartford during a lunchtime run on June 8, 2010. A bystander alerted Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) from Aetna Ambulance Services. They had been lunching nearby in the park, awaiting 911 calls.

Charter Oak Landing. Photo by Bet Zimmerman

The Emergency Medical Services team rushed to his aid. A second ambulance also came to the scene, which is standard protocol for a cardiac arrest.

Despite their best efforts, Doug did not survive

I had many questions about what happened that day. I contacted Aetna Ambulance Service. A supervisor sensitively and patiently gathered information and responded to all my questions. He explained that, in his experience, it was probably the best possible scenario for survivability.  Trained professionals reached Doug within minutes and did everything they could to try to save his life.  They delivered CPR and used a defibrillator.

Still, I am filled with “What if’s…”  However, I know that if this had happened at home, I would never have had the expertise or equipment to do what their staff did.  Thanks to the EMTs and paramedics, at least he had a chance at life.

It does help me to know that he was not alone at the very end, and that most likely it was quick and relatively painless.  He also died while doing something he truly enjoyed – running in the outdoors.

Doug was an amazing guy.  He climbed mountains, ran marathons, and could fix just about anything.  He was funny and exuberant.  He had a heart of gold, even though it apparently failed him in the end.  During his lifetime, he donated over 65 units of blood.  Afterwards, he donated tissues to help heal others. 

His entire career was dedicated to protecting the environment for future generations.  In his honor, a flag was flown over the capitol, and the Governor and General Assembly issued resolutions.  More than 400 people attended the wake and memorial service. 

I feel that our family, friends and colleagues owe the first responders a debt of gratitude for what they did to try to help such a man.

I cannot imagine how difficult and stressful the jobs of first responders must be.  They sometimes witness incomprehensible pain, tragedy and sadness.. They must make snap decisions under the worst of circumstances, with little or no information.  I am grateful for men and women like the staff of Aetna Ambulance Service who have such ability, courage and stamina to handle such challenges.

A lot of us feel good when we help someone we love. Emergency Medical Services personnel help complete strangers on a daily basis. Some day your own life, or the life of someone dear to you may depend on them.

I will never forget what they did for Doug and I. In my opinion, we can never thank them enough. I wish them all the love and joy that my husband brought to my life.

- Bet Zimmerman

By the way, Doug would have been thrilled to know that the medics assumed he was 45 years old. He would have turned 53 in July.



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