Wichita firefighter survives heart attack and returns to the department

Paul Wiebe (KSN News)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Jan. 1, 2015 was a memorable one for Wichita firefighter Paul Wiebe.

Not because of the house fire he was called to fight but because of a heart attack.

Thanks to his ability to recognize the signs and a fast-acting EMS crew, that same firefighter was able to celebrate a big milestone with the department just a few weeks ago.

It was actually Paul Wiebe’s second heart attack. He’d had another heart attack just a couple of years prior.

So that New Year’s Day morning he says he recognized the signs quickly and wants to share what he experienced, so if you ever feel something similar, you can get help as quickly as he did.

“There was fire in the attic, on the main floor, in the basement, there’s a lot of strenuous activity,” explained former Wichita Fire Chief Ron Blackwell.

KSN was there on New Year’s Day of 2015 when Paul Wiebe was doing what he’s trained to do, fight fires.

“He had gotten out of the house, fire had been declared under control when he began to complain about chest pain,” said former Chief Blackwell.

More than two years later, Paul still remembers what happened that day.

“I got back to the sidewalk, took two steps, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Paul says it felt like 200 pounds suddenly sitting on his shoulders.

Paul told the fire captain standing right in front of him that he was having chest pain.

A short time later EMS crews had him on the way to the hospital and confirmed Paul was having a heart attack.

“I got laid down, they got the camera over the top of me to put the cath in and something hit me, like a bat right between my eyes,” remembers Paul.

Doctors would shock Paul twice trying to revive his tanking blood pressure.

They later took him into surgery for the same procedure he had after his first heart attack nearly two years earlier.

“They put two stents in the widow maker. Only an 18 percent survival rate, and I survived it twice.”

It put Paul out of work for four months.

That’s when he says he couldn’t stand it anymore and wanted to get back to work.

After taking it easy the first few months, changing his diet and taking cholesterol meds, Paul is back where he wants to be.

“I had a little apprehension, but like we always do we get in there and do what we gotta do. It took me awhile to get back in routine.”

Paul says he tries to eat healthier and work-out more and doesn’t worry as much.

He knows the symptoms of a heart attack well enough to recognize one.

“It’s a pain that I would never wish on anybody. But it feels like you got an elephant sitting on your shoulders. At least that’s the way it is for me.”

Now more than two years later, Paul was recently recognized for 20 years of service on the Wichita Fire Department and sees retirement in the somewhat-near future.

“The camaraderie with the guys is just awesome. I’ve been with a lot of good guys, and it’s gonna be hard to leave in three to four years.”

For now, Paul says he’s thankful for the extra chance to enjoy doing what he loves.

“It’s changed my outlook toward my friends and family. I’m blessed. There is no doubt about it. I’ve been kept around for a reason. I’ll find that out someday.”

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