“Off duty” is not a concept that first responders embrace. The skills required to be one, and the calling to help people in need, are not restricted by time or place. Alexander Wasa demonstrated the truth of this mindset when he saved the life of a fellow diner at a popular restaurant in Lighthouse Point, Florida.
Bone Fish Mac’s Bar and Grille is the kind of place you might imagine in a community just north of Fort Lauderdale and closer to the Bahamas than the other side of the Sunshine State. Palm trees and sport-fishing memorabilia provide a tropical décor, and the menu features coastal comfort food. These combine to provide a relaxed atmosphere that makes it easy to believe the restaurant’s motto, “Where You’re Always Dining with Friends.” One diner certainly had friend on the night of August 29, 2022—though they had never met.
Diner in Distress
Wasa, a critical care transport paramedic for Pompano Beach AMR, was enjoying a meal when an elderly patron at another table lost consciousness and slumped forward. Without hesitating, Wasa sprang into action. He rushed to the table and assessed the unconscious person. They were turning blue and not breathing. While management called 911, Wasa knew time was of the essence. “It was clear the patron was choking and needed immediate care,” he said. “I tried the Heimlich maneuver, which can be difficult with an unresponsive patient, but the obstruction didn’t clear.”
Wasa moved the patron to the floor and, finding they had no pulse, began performing CPR. At about this time a Lighthouse Point police officer arrived on scene and they were able to engage in two-person CPR. These actions bought the patient critical time that would allow further life-saving actions to be successful. Within a few minutes, local EMS arrived and were able to dislodge the airway obstruction, and restore breathing and pulse. They rushed to North Broward Hospital where the patient was stabilized in critical condition.
Wasa’s actions did not go unnoticed. He was singled out in a commendation by Lighthouse Point Police Chief Ross Licata. Expressing his own gratitude, Chief Licata went on to state unequivocally that, “there’s no question (Wasa’s) experience and actions extended the survivability of the (patient) in need. Thank you for your remarkable service.”
If first responders have a “never-off” mindset, then it is equally true that they shy away from recognition and accolades. They have an “all in a day's work” mentality that is as sincere as it is immutable; remarkable though it may seem to those of us who don’t possess their life-saving skills.
For Wasa, a 30-year EMS veteran, this is true, as well: Recognition is fine but unnecessary, a successful save is the reward. That said, the people of South East Florida can rest a little easier, wherever they are—dining or otherwise—they have a friend in Alexander Wasa.