Bangor firefighter saved by colleagues returns to work

Capt. John Prentiss of the Bangor Fire Dept., right, and his wife Barby sit at their Dedham home discussing John's heart attack in Dec. 2010 while on duty responding to an emergency call.
Capt. John Prentiss of the Bangor Fire Dept., right, and his wife Barby sit at their Dedham home discussing John's heart attack in Dec. 2010 while on duty responding to an emergency call.
Posted Feb. 05, 2011, at 12:40 a.m.
Last modified Feb. 05, 2011, at 12:58 a.m.
Capt. John Prentiss of the Bangor Fire Dept. at his Dedham home in Dec. 2010 discussing his heart attack while on duty responding to an emergency call.
Capt. John Prentiss of the Bangor Fire Dept. at his Dedham home in Dec. 2010 discussing his heart attack while on duty responding to an emergency call.
to see how he is doing. Pictured (from left) are Joe Wellman, firefighter-paramedic; Melinda Caldwell, firefighter-paramedic; Bruce Johnson, firefighter-intermediate; and Nate Snyder, firefighter-paramedic.
Photo courtesy of Barby Prentiss
to see how he is doing. Pictured (from left) are Joe Wellman, firefighter-paramedic; Melinda Caldwell, firefighter-paramedic; Bruce Johnson, firefighter-intermediate; and Nate Snyder, firefighter-paramedic.

BANGOR, Maine — A city fire captain whose colleagues brought him back to life after he went into cardiac arrest in December is back on the job.

“I was very excited to get back to work,” Capt. John Prentiss, a 23-year veteran of the Bangor Fire Department, said Friday.

Prentiss, 55, who lives in Dedham, said his first 24-hour shift after what he refers to as his “event” was Monday.

Doctors have told him there is no permanent damage and gave Prentiss the green light to return to work unrestricted in his duties.

On Sunday, Dec. 19, Prentiss went into cardiac arrest shortly after he and fellow crew members Melinda Caldwell, Nate Snyder, Bruce Johnson and Joe Wellman were sent to an emergency call on Finson Road.

The four medically trained firefighters who were working with Prentiss that day jumped into action, beginning with CPR, then using a defibrillator to shock Prentiss’ heart and administering lifesaving drugs.

After another round of CPR, Prentiss began to move and was given a second round of medication.

Once the firefighters got Prentiss’ heart going again, they rushed him to Eastern Maine Medical Center. He was released a few days later.

“I think I was lucky,” Prentiss said. “I couldn’t have been in a better place or with better people” when his heart stopped beating.

Though Prentiss said he had an excellent working relationship with his crew members before they saved his life, the bond is even stronger now.

During his six-week convalescence, Prentiss participated in a cardiac rehabilitation program from which he expects to “graduate” next week.

He said he also was closely monitored to make sure his body did not reject the stent put into his heart and that he healed properly.

Despite being away from the job he loves for about six weeks, Prentiss said he wasn’t bored.

He said he worked on some projects he had going, including several household chores that his wife, Barby, wanted completed.

“My ‘honey-do’ list is a lot shorter now,” he said with a chuckle.

Thanks to the efforts of his fellow firefighters, Prentiss has more time to be a husband to Barby, a dad to their three children and “Grumpy” to their two grandchildren.

Barby Prentiss said Friday she’s just glad to have him around.

“I’ll just tell you that every day you wake up, it’s a new day. Every day is a gift, and we all need to remember that. I’m just really grateful that we had this little wake-up call,” she said.

“That’s when you learn there’s a lot of stuff out there that doesn’t really matter.”

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