CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A Colorado man nearly died on the job after suffering a severe allergic reaction. Clear Creek EMS performed an advanced medical procedure on the spot and saved his life, which led to a very emotional reunion.
That magical moment happened on Thursday when Dave Itrich was able to look the men and women who saved his life in the eyes and say thank you. Through joyous tears and warm embraces, Itrich is giving all the praise to the emergency medical services team, calling them heroes.
“It’s not every day you get a second chance,” Itrich said.
On the job, then anaphylactic shock
For Itrich, a second chance at life is his reality after surviving a near-death experience on April 14. He works at the Kum & Go in Idaho Springs, and it was a typical day, but things took a terrible turn.
“I had shook somebody’s hand and scratched my mouth, and they had to have shellfish on their hands because that’s the only thing I’m that allergic to,” Itrich said.
The shellfish cross-contamination quickly sent Itrich into anaphylactic shock, and he became dizzy, dazed and disoriented, and he was struggling to breathe.
“About four minutes later I was having breathing problems. I texted my wife saying I’m feeling dizzy, something’s not right,” Itrich said. “I couldn’t breathe. My throat was closing up.”
Itrich said his text to his wife made no sense and was jumbled, prompting her to get worried and call. As he was speaking to her, he fell out. Itrich said that’s when a customer jumped into action and dialed 911.
Medics arrive to find respiratory failure
Within minutes, Clear Creek EMS showed up, including Capt. Clark Church.
“Dave was in severe respiratory distress,” Church said. “We knew that he was in what we call respiratory failure. It was getting harder and harder for him to breathe. It was getting quicker. He was getting very tired, so eventually, he would stop breathing on his own.”
Church said his team members have been training and studying for months to earn their critical care certification and put it into action for the first time to perform a Rapid Sequence Intubation, or RTI, on Itrich.
“To know that we are able to do that for him is really overwhelming,” Church said.
Itrich told FOX31 that if the EMS team had waited until he was at the hospital to do the procedure, he wouldn’t be alive. Thankful to be alive, Itrich said he is holding his wife and grandchild a little tighter. He’s also crediting the quick-thinking and medical expertise of Clear Creek EMS for not only saving his life, but for Church staying by his side.
“They were able to save my life. I mean, how do you look heroes in the eye and not be choked up about it,” Itrich said.
‘You have no idea what that meant to me’
He had the chance to thank the “superheroes” who saved his life at a reunion on Thursday. In an emotional video taken by officials, Itrich is seen crying, stating, “The last thing I remember before I went to sleep was you holding my hand and saying, ‘I’m right here, I got you.’ You have no idea what that meant to me.”
Photos also show Itrich and the EMS team hugging after his speech to them.
“For him to show such gratitude, overwhelming gratitude, it means a lot to all of us that Dave came out and just said thanks to show some appreciation,” Church said.
After recovering for a few days, Itrich is already back at work. He said his near-death experience taught him the meaning of life, which is to “live and not just exist.”