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Nurse thanks firefighters who saved her life after heart attack

By Lisa Gresci

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    FOXBORO, Massachusetts (WBZ) — A nurse who is used to helping others, found herself in need of lifesaving care.

“Some people describe it as a pain in your chest, it wasn’t like that for me, it was like I was going to explode from the inside out,” Terri Johnson said. She felt pressure in her chest, shooting down both arms.

“And I have to tell you there is a very big difference between a panic attack and a heart attack,” she said. “It woke me out of a sound sleep.”

That’s exactly what she was having, a heart attack. The nurse by day, a patient now.

“I’m like nope this is it, this is everything you’ve learned in school. This is everything you’ve done taking care of other people. This is you,” she explained.

Johnson dialed 911. Barely able to spit out the facts and her address.

“Tell me exactly what happened,” the dispatcher said.

“I don’t feel good. I think I’m having a heart attack. I am going to lay by the front door,” Johnson replied.

Because she knew this was an “every second counts” situation, Johnson met the firefighters outside. She laid down on the front steps with her head on an Amazon package.

“I just knew that’s where I had to go. That’s what I had to do,” she said.

Foxboro firefighters, acting just as fast. Firefighter and paramedic William Cavalieri said it was a team effort. “Time is everything,” Cavalieri said.

They started Johnson’s treatment immediately. “Everything happens very fast, so we wanted to make sure that we would stay with her,” he said.

The group of them stayed by her side in the hospital.

“I just looked up at them and I said sit me up,” Johnson said. “So they sat me up in the stretcher and I took a really deep breath and I screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘My name is Terri Johnson and I am not dying in your ER today.’”

Johnson had multiple stents put in and had to be transferred to another hospital.

“Nurses are terrible patients just so you know, we really are and I’m amazed. Amazed at how they handled it. They were calm. I wasn’t calm,” she said. “I felt like everything around me was upside down and I’m used to being the calm… so to have them come in and be the calm… was really incredible.”

A gift, Johnson didn’t think was on her list this year.

“Right before Christmas. Who needs presents this year?” Johnson said. “Just their presence. That’s what I needed. At the right moment. And I got it. They were amazing.”

“I just want to thank them for doing what they do. I want to thank them for the opportunity that I have. I’m only 50 and I am planning on going on to do great things in life that are going to help other people too. And if they hadn’t helped me, I wouldn’t be in a position to help other people. So we are all connected. I just want them to know it wasn’t wasted. I’ll need to learn how to adjust my life a bit but at least I have a life to change,” she added.

And for the firefighters who respond to these calls multiple times a day, it’s special too because it’s not every day that they hear how these things end.

“We’re very happy in this situation that everything lined up properly. That she received good care and she is home. And that’s the ultimate goal,” Foxboro Deputy Fire Chief Tom Kenvin said. “Every time we respond to a call we have the objective to deliver high quality care in a timely manner to initiate a good outcome for everyone.”

“It’s a great story we are very happy to help,” Cavalieri said.

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