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Phoenix Awards honor Cape lifesavers

By Staff | May 17, 2016

Never a day goes by where Marvin Shine doesn’t thank his stepson, Alphonso Robinson, for saving his life.

Jesse Jones, manager at Cici’s Pizza, had seen Craig Cunningham come into his restaurant countless times before one day saving his life during lunch.

These are among the rare occasions where the recipient of a lifesaving effort gets to meet the person who saved him or her.

Most often, the recipient never get to meet his or her heroes to thank them. On Monday, at the Phoenix Award Ceremony at the Harborside Event Center, some of those people had their chance, and in many cases there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen.

The Phoenix Award is named after the bird in Greek mythology that rises from the dead out of the ashes. The awards symbolize those who saved people from possible death; Lee County EMS, police, firefighters, dispatchers, even civilians.

Cape Coral, as well as all of Lee County, saw a record number of honorees. In 2013, three dozen awards were given in 14 situations. On Monday, there were 14 incidents in Cape Coral alone out of 34, of which more than 100 people earned awards, some more than once.

According to Ryan Lamb, division chief, this is no accident or just the result of having the biggest population.

“We’ve been making a lot of changes to our medical treatments for our patients and it’s making a big difference. We’ve doubled our survival increase,” Lamb said. “A lot of focus is on community CPR, getting it started before services arrive.”

On March 6, Cunningham collapsed at Jones’ eatery. Jones started to administered CPR until the fire department and EMS showed up to provide advanced care.

A pulse was restored and Cunningham was transported to Healthpark Medical Center, where he made a full recovery.

Also receiving awards for the incident were firefighters Joseph Dovial and Jacob Kingery, paramedic James O’Leary, EMT Jason Schoelkoph and communications officer Jeanne Shadaram.

Ben Abes, deputy director of Lee County Public Safety, read a letter from Cunningham’s son, Matt, that said Jones had “saved his hero” and that his son now had additional time to spend with grandpa.

“I guess I’m a Phoenix. I came back from the ashes,” Cunningham said as the emotions came over him. “I didn’t know anything. I just passed out. Six days later a woke up in the hospital. I really appreciate all the help.”

Cunningham was a regular at Cici’s and watched Jones grow within the company. Jones had done training in the past, as his family is in the medical field.

“He was perfectly fine and within 15 minutes, he collapsed. I called the ambulance, rushed around the buffet and ran to his aid,” Jones said. “It’s something I taught myself to take on.”

In Shine’s case, on March 11, he was working on a construction site when he collapsed. Robinson immediately began resuscitation efforts which were continued by the EMS staff and first responders.

He was transported to Gulf Coast Medical Center, where he made a full recovery.

“I want to give thanks to the Heavenly Father. I had open heart surgery and was out for five days. It brought tears to my eyes and I want to thank my stepson for being on the jobsite because he was the only one there,” Shine said, who doesn’t remember anything about the event.

“I didn’t know where I was. I called the paramedics, there wasn’t anything coming out of his mouth,” Robinson said. “It’s a good thing the fire department came as fast as they did.”

Engineer Douglas Cainas, firefighters John Pope, Michael Tarsia and Joshua Denison, paramedic Lige Jones and EMT Richard Hendrzak also received awards for the incident.

It was a tag-team effort when three local citizens saved Mark Boyar’s life on March 29. Danielle McGuire, who is a nurse, and her family were going to a movie when they came upon a traffic accident. Boyer had gone into cardiac arrest while driving.

“I always stop when I see accidents. The patient had been pulled out of the car and CPR was in progress,” McGuire said. “We all took turns until the paramedics arrived.”

For Mark Boyar, it was a tough moment. He was meeting many of his saviors for the first time and really had a hard time keeping things together as he spoke.

“It’s tough. I don’t remember a lot and part of me shouldn’t because it brings back a lot of sadness. It’s mixed emotions,” Boyar said. “It’s more happiness than sadness, but more confusion. I’m happy to see them.”

Lt. Anthony Monte Ferario, engineer Luis Medero, firefighters John Buice, Marshall Campbell, Michael Montanye and Kevin Cavanaugh paramedic Joseph Garretto and EMT Stacy McDaniels were also honored.

Lamb said if anyone is interested in taking a CPR class, they should go to the Cape Coral Fire Department website and sign up for a class.