Imagine you are faced suddenly with potentially life-altering circumstances: You are the only other person around when someone collapses; you witness a crime in progress; or you are called on to help in a seemingly hopeless situation.
The following are stories of neighbors who, when faced with such challenges, responded heroically.
Brought back to life
For the second time in his young life, 14-year old Nicholas Calabro did something medical professionals figured would be impossible.
The first time, it was learning to eat and walk. He was born with a condition that should have prevented him from doing both. The second happened a few weeks ago, when his dad found his lifeless body in the backyard pool. This time, no one expected him to live.
Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedics Kent Mandernach and Kelly Kovar, who were working an overtime shift, responded to the call. On the way, Kovar told his partner he had never responded to a drowning before. But Mandernach had.
“They hardly ever turn out good,” he says.
Based on what the emergency workers witnessed when they arrived at the Calabros’ home about three minutes later, this was no exception. Though Nick Calabro’s father, Mike, had administered CPR, Nick had stopped breathing and showed no signs of life. Mandenach and Kovar spent 15 minutes in the Calabro’s back yard attempting to revive the boy, but to no avail. They loaded him up in the ambulance.
“At that point I was thinking, no, the boy is gone,” says Mandernach, a Lake Highlands High School graduate. He continued to push meds and administer CPR while in route to Presbyterian Hospital. “You just have to do everything you can — [both Kovar and I] have sons that age and maybe, who knows, maybe that’s what made us keep working even though things looked so bad,” he says.
The Calabros were already mourning their loss. Only in the last few weeks had their son regained mobility following a hip surgery. He had wandered into the back yard, where his rubber ball fell into the swimming pool. His parents think he went in after it.
“It all happened so fast,” says Michelle Calabro, Nick’s mom. “Nick had been through so much, and I just couldn’t imagine it was going to happen like this. There are no words to describe what it’s like, seeing your child floating in your pool. I knew from the moment my husband pulled him from the water that he wasn’t breathing, didn’t have a heartbeat. It was a nightmare.”
But back on the ambulance, something amazing occurred. “I felt a light pulse and I thought, ‘This might be happening’,” Mandernach says.
When the grief-stricken family arrived at the emergency room, they saw Mandernach and Kovar, along with several other hospital workers, surrounding Nick’s bed. “They said he was still very critical, but he was alive,” Michelle Calabro says. After several days in intensive care at Children’s Medical Center, he went home and is almost completely back to normal.
Recently, the whole Calabro clan, including Nick and his sister, Jenna, went to fire station 17 to thank the crew who brought Nick back to life, though Michelle and Mike Calabro say they could never thank them enough.
“Had someone other than these true heroes responded to the call, Nick might not be alive today. They are both phenomenal guys. They didn’t give up on my kid,” Michelle Calabro says. “They had every reason to stop, but didn’t. I hope others like them who have to face pain and loss and death all the time can see from this story what can happen if you don’t give up.”
To catch a predator
With Pablo Gonzales on the maintenance staff, the Springhill Apartments might not need a security guard.
Last March, a tenant reported a man scaling the wall of the complex and climbing onto a second-floor patio. Management sent Gonzales to check it out. When the suspected burglar realized he’d been spotted, he jumped and tried to flee the scene, but Gonzales grabbed and held onto him until police arrived. The suspect turned out to be one Jose Rico, who was carrying several thousand dollars worth of stolen cash and property when the police arrested him.
Soon, police learned that Rico was a “person of interest” in a Lake Highlands area serial rape investigation. Following the burglary arrest, youth division detectives were able to get DNA evidence that linked Rico to the sexual assault of one 12- and one 13-year old girl. Police say Gonzales’ efforts led directly to Rico’s arrest, which helped them to build the rape case against him.
“Thanks in part to what Mr. Gonzales did, we were able to get a residential burglar off the street and a serial rapist off the street,” says Northeast Police Division Deputy Chief Tom Lawrence, who recently presented Gonzales with the Citizen’s Certificate of Merit Award.
But that’s not all. Just days before receiving the award, Gonzales nabbed another burglar attempting to break into a Springhill unit.
Again, he held the crook while he waited for police. Gonzales isn’t afraid when it comes to bad guys, but he is annoyed.
“They make more work for me,” he says. “You see, they break the doors, they break the windows, I have to go back and fix it.”
Just in time
Right after lunch one weekday, Paul Hartman stepped off the elevator and heard a strange sound.
“I looked in that direction and saw a foot sticking out of Gene’s office door,” Hartman says.
There he found Eugene Moore, a corporate attorney who offices alone, lying on the floor.
“I told him I was going to get help; he said, ‘No, no, I just fell,’ but I could tell something was really wrong,” Hartman says. “He didn’t seem to be able to move the left side of his body at all.”
Hartman turned to grab the nearest phone and ran into Brian Chase, who works in the same building, in the office of U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling. The men and another member of Hensarling’s staff, Margaret Smith, made the emergency phone calls, contacted Moore’s wife, and returned to attend to Moore while they waited for paramedics to respond. Emergency workers arrived quickly, and took Moore to Medical City Hospital, which offers specialized stroke care, in time to administer an experimental “clot-buster” drug that helps minimize lingering disabilities after a stroke if it is given within three hours of the onset of the attack.
Today, Moore is recovering nicely. That might not be the case were it not for serendipity and the fast response of those who came to his aid, he says.
“As I was lying there, I could still hear everything that was going on around me. I told them I was fine a couple of times, but luckily they didn’t listen to me,” Moore says. “Paul, Brian and Margaret seemed to know just what to do, and I could tell that they recognized the signs of a stroke.”
The paramedics arrived quickly, and Moore could hear them debating over hospitals.
“Presbyterian was the closest, but one of the paramedics said to the others, ‘Remember the memo we got? Medical City is stroke certified,’ so that’s where they took me.”
It was fortunate that they did, because things moved much faster than they would have had they taken Moore to a non stroke-certified hospital, he says, and the doctors were able to administer the time sensitive clot-busting drug within the hour.
“For once,” Moore says laughing, “someone got the memo!”
Medical City recently presented Hartman, Chase and Smith with the Stroke Heroes award.