"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Those are words Richard Mandzen says he never thought he would be able to say.
That’s because one year ago he suffered a major heart attack.
"I described it to the paramedics like I was in a great big bear hug — just squeezing, just squeezing," he says.
"We found retired Captain Mandzen sitting on the floor in front of his sofa in obvious discomfort and pain," Lieutenant Ernest White says.
Retired Captain Mandzen was with Rockford Fire for 28 years and now the people he used to work side by side with were about to save his life.
But fast forward to Friday, Mandzen is one eight cardiac arrest survivors to tell the people, like lieutenant white, who saved their lives how much they appreciate their service.
It’s all part of the Rockford Fire Department’s survivors ceremony.
"It’s just a miracle that I’m around," Mandzen says.
Each first responder and even bystander who stepped in to save the survivor’s life was awarded a challenge coin or the department’s Life Saving Award. But for White, he says it’s all just a part of the job.
"We’re doing what we’re trained to do, but we’re also appreciative of their graciousness and it makes you feel good to know that just for a moment in time everything went as best it could," he says.
That way Mandzen can look forward to experiences he wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the first responders who showed up by his side.
"I look forward to go to Germany to see my great grandkids — and that wouldn’t have happened. Life is precious and it really teaches you to take care of yourself and enjoy life as it is," Mandzen says.