Woman revived from cardiac arrest by friend-turned-firefighter

As Ryan Stenhouse knelt down to revive a woman with no heartbeat or pulse after her car crashed into a light pole on Southwest Park Place, it dawned on the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter — trained to live precisely in the moment — that he recognized her, and her dog, from somewhere.

"I looked at the rest of the crew and said, 'I know this woman. Her name is Mary,'" he recalled of the February 15, 2013, incident. "The (police) officer is asking me, 'Who's Mary?' I said, 'I used to deliver Mary's mail.'"

Stenhouse not only served the cardiac-arrest victim, Mary Fiocchi, as a mailman, but also knew her through his best friend — Fiocchi's next-door neighbor in Southeast Portland.

"I was trying to stay on focus, but it really caught me off guard," he admitted. "All I could think about were her immediate health needs, but I knew she had a couple of kids, a husband, a dog named Ray. All that stuff was racing through my head."

Through cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Stenhouse was able to revive Fiocchi, who'd blacked out while sitting at at stoplight. She was quickly transported to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, which, fortunately was located close by.

One year later, Fiocchi — who had no previous heart-related problems before the crash — is very much alive and well. Now outfitted with a heart pacemaker and living in Redmond, Fiocchi and her husband, John, are celebrating the Feb. 15 anniversary of the day her life changed with a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico.

Fiocchi remains in disbelief about the quirks of fate, including her revival by a friend and former mailman, that led to this point.

"I had this heart-failing episode, and he's the one who comes and saves my life," she says of Stenhouse, who's based at TVF&R Station 65 at 3425 S.W. 103rd Ave. "I'm very fond of Ryan. He's my guardian angel."

Fiocchi says the medication she was administered to revive her severely affected her memories surrounding that day's events.

"I had been to a birthday party of a girlfriend the night before," she says. "I didn't recall being at the party."

Through help from relatives, Stenhouse and police reports, she's recreated at least some of what happened after she and her dog Ray visited her granddaughter in Beaverton.

"It was right at the Park Place (entrance) to Sunset Highway. I was going eastbound to go back home at 4:15 p.m. on a Friday," she says of the approximate point she lost consciousness. "The light turned green. My car went diagonally across the intersection and into a power pole. Fortunately, it was right across the freeway from St. Vincent."

With Stenhouse and TVF&R personnel arriving within minutes, Fiocchi was revived and whisked to the hospital.

"They got me there in 10 minutes. Ryan got me out of the car and recognized me. He was the first on the scene. It kind of makes you think you're here for a reason."

The following Wednesday, her doctor called for a medically induced coma for the surgery to insert her pacemaker. When she came to, Stenhouse and two fellow firefighters from the accident scene were there to greet her with flowers.

"I was kind of blurry, in and out," she says. "It was a totally heavy episode for me and my family. I did wake up at one point and saw four firemen at one point. I said, 'Am I dreaming?'"

Trading in her gig as a Realtor in Portland for a lower key business in Redmond, Fiocchi went through a transition period when — because she lost consciousness at the wheel — she lost her driver's license for six months.

"I couldn't bike or drive," she says. "It pretty much turned our lives upside down."

Now a year later, Fiocchi takes medications but otherwise has no particular health-related orders to follow.

"I'd like to do away with (meds) at some point, but I feel good and healthy," she says. "I get out and enjoy the scenery as often as I can."

She's eternally grateful to Stenhouse and TVF&R for their grace under pressure on that Friday afternoon.

"I want to say a special thank you to Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. They are the very reason I came through with no brain damage and other terrible effects I could've had," she says. "Because of their fast action, they spared me that. And it was way above and beyond to come visit me in the hospital.

"I mean, they're excellent."

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