SAFD paramedic dispatched to father's home during cardiac arrest helps save his life

Father, son have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving

SAN ANTONIO – David Nielsen has responded to hundreds of cardiac arrests in his 11 years as a San Antonio firefighter and paramedic, but nothing could have prepared him for the call he took two months ago while on duty.

"September 24, 03:30 hours — I will remember that forever," he said.

David was finishing his shift when his partner saw a dispatch call for a cardiac arrest.

"He said the address, and I immediately was like, uh-uh," David said.

It was his father's house.

"When we got there, he was in the middle of what we say, the term: working cardiac arrest. They had the CPR machine on him. They'd given medication. He had to be shocked several times, so we jumped in," David said.

"I just stopped breathing," David's father, Dave Nielsen, said. "My wife realized that and she called 911 and started CPR right away."

Dave said the key to his survival was twofold: his quick-thinking wife and the skilled paramedics. One of those, his son, who showed professionalism over panic.

"It was pretty, pretty emotional," David said.

On Tuesday, Dave got back into an ambulance, but this time, it was with a smile.

"So yeah, you didn't walk up this way," David said, jokingly, as he and his father walked up the stairs into the ambulance parked at his fire station.

David then showed his father the technology that kept him alive. As he explained the CPR machine in detail, his father looked at him with pride and gratefulness.

"He got to come over for Halloween with the grandkids again, and we're going over Thursday for Thanksgiving," David said.

The little things have now become the biggest things.

"It's important to let people know you love, that you love them," Dave said while looking at his son.

They both want people to know if they're in the presence of someone in cardiac arrest, immediately call 911 and start chest compressions. That will manually keep the heart pumping until help arrives.

Anyone who wants to become CPR certified can visit the Red Cross website and sign up for a class.

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.