By the time the EMTs reached my hotel room in Austin, Tex., I was already unconscious on the floor. Moments earlier I had dragged myself to the phone and called for help as chest pains began to overwhelm me. I later learned those first responders resuscitated me more than once as they used their medical training to keep me alive until we arrived at the hospital. That’s where doctors and nurses and a lot of machines took over. I had suffered a major heart attack. The care I received at that medical center was extraordinary. But not for the immediate care I received from that small team of EMTs, I never would have made it.
That was back in 2017. I’ve since recovered and feel great, often thinking about those heroic first responders, whom I was lucky enough to meet and personally thank a year later. I especially think of them and their colleagues today as COVID-19 creates huge budget problems for local governments that threaten their jobs and our nation’s ability to respond to this and future crises.
Ridge was governor of Pennsylvania and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. He co-chairs the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense.