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Man thanks EMS for saving his life: “I was dying

By Spencer Wilson

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    CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colorado (KCNC) — Clear Creek County EMS recently spent time training on rapid sequence intubation, something they were excited to be able to use in the event they needed to help someone, but didn’t expect to need it so soon.

The idea is to put the person under a muscle relaxant and a mild amnesia-inducing drug so the patient doesn’t have to be conscious when they’re having a tube shoved down their throat to help them breathe. Dave Itrich ended up being one of those patients.

“My throat started to close up and it was anaphylactic shock,” Itrich said.

“Everything started getting garbled, I don’t know how else to explain it than that.”

Itrich has an allergy to shellfish and believes he shook hands with someone who had some on his hands still and then touched his mouth later. He collapsed on the floor of the convenience store.

“Someone jumped the counter at the store where I worked, called 911, and these guys showed up,” Itrich said, motioning to Clear Creek EMS. “I was scared, I couldn’t breathe.”

“I was dying. There was no other word for it.”

Clear Creek County EMS got on the scene and started doing what they could to help stabilize Itrich and get him loaded into the ambulance. EMS Captain Clark Church saw his team had the medical side under control, and went to lend a hand to the man gasping for air.

“He grabbed my hand and he says ‘I’m here with you, we got you, no matter what we got you’… that is the last thing I remember before I went unconscious,” Itrich said.

This new option for CCEMS is not new to the field, aircrews in medical helicopters use it often and some ground crews do too, according to Church. He said he’s thankful his team is now a part of those specially trained teams.

“The alternative before was to either try to put a tube down their nose and work that in… which is not the most successful procedure,” Church said. “The other option is to wait until we can intubate them.”

CBS News Colorado Mountain Newsroom Reporter Spencer Wilson asked when that happens, and was told when they are no longer conscious so they can fit the tube down their throat without resistance.

“You have a gag reflex, we couldn’t physically do it otherwise,” Church said. Now that they can do it, they look back and see how much good they could have been doing.

“We have 15-20 calls that we have isolated over a year period that would have benefited from this procedure,” Church said. “My hope for him was that he didn’t fall asleep afraid, so for him to say exactly that, he did not fall asleep afraid, was… I was really overwhelmed.”

Itrich is more than willing to gush about his saviors, who he calls his “supermen” and the efforts they went through to make sure that he’s still walking this Earth.

“They gave me the single greatest gift, they gave me my life. I mean, what more… what is the definition of a hero? Someone who gives you your life and lets you continue on,” Itrich said.

“It wasn’t that I was facing death, it was that I knew I wasn’t facing it alone,” he said. “That if I died someone would be there to hold my hand. There is nothing scarier in life… than dying alone.”

In the meantime, Itrich now gets to spend more time with his wife and grandbaby who he said he got to hold shortly after getting out of the hospital.

“I will gladly show all of you guys pictures of me holding my grandbaby the day after I got out of the hospital which I could not have done if I had died,” Itrich said, laughing.

And for the next time he bumps into shellfish?

“No worries, I have an EpiPen now!!”

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