City’s first responders honored at Phoenix Awards
James Rosso has no memory of his life being saved.
Rosso, 21, suffered traumatic brain injuries on April 9 after he was hit while jogging by a truck doing 45 mph. He was in a coma for nine days, the hospital for five weeks and rehab for five more after that.
He wasn’t supposed to live, but he did. And on Friday, he and his mother got to meet the first responders who saved his life.
The Lee County Department of Public Safety held its twice-yearly Phoenix Awards ceremony at the Harborside Event Center, where it honored 144 first responders, 16 citizen lifesavers and citizens in 17 first-response organizations for the 22 life-saving events they performed throughout Lee County over a six-month period from April to September.
It was not only a chance to honor the police, paramedics, dispatchers, firemen and others, but also a rare chance for the survivors and their families to meet their saviors for the first time and personally thank them.
For Rosso, it was an amazing moment, knowing he is very lucky to be alive, and he has them to thank.
“One of the trauma surgeons in the beginning made a note on my chart ‘recovery not expected,'” Rosso said. “I don’t think it’s hit me yet. I’ll probably go home and have a good cry. To call it a Christmas miracle would be an understatement.”
Tammy Rosso didn’t wait to go home. She and James took the stage to meet the team.
“Everyone’s been asking what we want for Christmas. This is what we got,” Tammy said. “James had three cardiac arrests during the event and we were told he was not expected to live. So we are incredibly grateful. Without you guys our Christmas would be very different.”
Deputy Director of Lee County Public Safety Scott Tuttle, who emceed his final Phoenix Awards, said the families know all too well what it means to have these people doing their jobs.
“It’s not just the patient, but their friends’, their family’s, their world’s that rejoice at their life being saved,” Tuttle said. “For a person to be successfully resuscitated, a successful chain of events must occur. Without the first responders’ dedication, training and skills, the chain of survival would be broken.”
Tuttle said in Rosso’s case, there was about a 5 percent chance of survival in a case so severe.
Those honored in Rosso’s case were Anthony Carioscia, Robert Iwaniec, Eric Nobel, Jason Polar and James Parker of Cape Coral Fire & Rescue; Christopher Haberman and Martin Brucker of the Cape Coral Police Department; Martin Ripalda, Adrian Santiago and Mariellen Shields of Lee County Emergency Medical Services; and Gregg Ciccheto and Jaeson Farmer of LeeFlight, who took Rosso by helicopter to the hospital.
Carioscia, whose father was a police officer for 30 years and is now a city councilman, said the feeling was unreal.
“It’s amazing, we don’t usually get to see the people afterwards and what happens to them,” Carioscia said. “It’s a great feeling to see the person and see them in a different light.”
Cape Coral first responders were honored for saving four other lives. On May 14, Gregory Lacoste, Jordan Mendes, Trenton Bowen, Douglas Cainas, Tim Clark and Eliseo Flecha of Cape Coral Fire & Rescue, and William Bradford of Lee County EMS, saved Edward Hodes’ life.
“Their passion, their feelings, their guts, They’re incredible. But there’s one person who didn’t make it, who was with me, my fiance,” Hodes said. “She brought me back to life. All I can say is, thank you so very much.”
On July 7, Trevor Gant and Brandon Petkus of the CCFD and Nicholas Favazzo, Gary Russell and Ricky Tschappat of Lee County EMS, resuscitated a newborn baby at a birthing center, who is now doing well.
On July 24, Dave Arnold, Eric Garber, Amy Martz, Gabriel Morgan and Michael Tarsia of the CCFD; Diana Concepcion of Lee County Dispatch; and Scott Comer and Whitney Laning at Lee County EMS saved Ralph Cobourn after his wife performed CPR.
“Sometimes I find saying thank you inadequate. Your skills, your training and your dedication makes a difference,” Cobourn said.
On Sept. 4, Michael Camelo Jr., Adam Dowdy, Billie Fonock, Brian James Newland and Martin Redvan of the CCFD; Diana Concepcion of Lee County Dispatch; and Nicholas Favazzo and Gary Russell of Lee County EMS saved Victoria Hunt, who was found unresponsive on the floor by her husband, Glenn. Concepcion provided CPR instructions over the phone until emergency crews arrived.
“The dispatcher got me off to a good start, things worked out fine. I want everyone to take a CPR class because it’s worth it,” Glenn said. “I’ve been married 53 years and now its 53-plus.”
For the powers that be, this is almost like Christmas, one of their favorite days.
“This was an amazing event, to hear from the people they were able to bring back. It’s incredible the gift they were able to give them. You almost never see that,” said, Capt. Lisa Barnes of the Cape Coral Police Department. “It’s an event we love taking part in.”
“These men and women train from fire school to the end of their careers. It’s a day we recognize that,” CCFD Fire Chief Donald Cochran said. “Right next to Christmas, this is what it’s all about. They made their time on earth a special time.”