In the summer of 2020, McKinney Fire tells Captain Jonathon Followwell that he is in the best shape of his life.
At 43, he was exercising every day, eating well, and receiving a clean health certificate from his cardiologist a few months ago.
When the fire chief contracted what he believed to be a mild COVID-19 case in August 2020, he spent his two-week quarantine working on his farm.
He returned to work feeling good, but days later he collapsed in the middle of training outside the No. 5 fire station – sudden cardiac arrest.
“I ran one last lap around the fire station and fell dead. Had a massive heart attack and dropped dead right at the bottom of the hill, ”said Followwell.
A passerby saw him collapse and alerted his friend and colleague in the fire department at Micah Maxon.
“At first I refused. I thought he had just passed out. He was face down. I turned it over and it was purple, ”said Maxon. “I knew the moment he took his last breath, and I just jumped on his chest and started doing compressions.”
With the help of two other firefighters, Maxon performed CPR and put a defibrillator on his captain until Followwell’s heart finally started beating again on the way to the hospital.
Four days later, the firefighter woke up in the intensive care unit – confused but alive.
Doctors told Followwell that he had 100 percent blockage of his left artery, but miraculously no neurological damage and no damage to his heart.
“I sit here and speak to you by the grace and mercy of a great God. That’s the only way to explain it, ”said Followwell.
But setbacks soon followed – including operations and a tracheostomy – complicated by his previous COVID-19 infection.
“COVID is real. The things it does to people are real, ”said Followwell.
While he was continuing his rehabilitation, he received his vaccine in early March and encouraged people to get their vaccination as well.
During his long recovery, Followwell said that small moments reminded him that a higher power was at work.
“Every time I thought I saw the end, God said I had something for you, but I learned from it all,” said Followwell.
Colleague Micah Maxon said it took a while to process everything that happened that day.
“We’ve been doing the same things for the past 15 years and most of the time it doesn’t work. And this time it does, ”said Maxon. “For me, I finally made the decision that I should just give it up [God], let him carry the burden, he’s in control. And he’s the one who worked through me to bring him back. “
Now, a year after his own crew helped him save his life, Jonathon is back at work helping save the lives of others.
“I told them all along that I would come back. It only took a while, ”said Followwell.
The McKinney Fire Department is holding an upcoming citizen training course on how to behave in the event of a heart attack or mass accident. The training includes “Stop the Bleed” and “Hands-only CPR”.