Retired firefighter Lt. Robert “Bob” Zolna was revived by emergency personnel after going into cardia arrest in his home one Thursday evening. The firefighters and paramedics that came to save him were the same ones he meets everyday for coffee – Zolna was more than relived to know his friends were the ones to rescue him.
The former Chicago Fire Department firefighter visits the firehouse every day except Sunday to enjoy a morning coffee with his former colleagues – not to mention to greet some of the new guys recruited to Mount Greenwood.
Zolna, now 75-years-old, retired from the Chicago FD in 1998 after he finished his last assignment in West Lawn. However, despite almost ending his service almost 20 years earlier, that hasn’t stopped him from visiting the same firehouse for a nice hot cup of coffee with his friends.
Unfortunately, one Thursday evening at 6:49 p.m., Zolna collapsed in his home after going into cardiac arrest. He was suffering from low blood sugar, causing the incident.
Paramedics and firefighters dispatched to Zolna’s home immediately. Medics shocked Zolna’s heart with an AED six times to revive him. Over the 10 minutes his life was in jeopardy, his friends were able to stabilize him and rush him to a local hospital shortly after.
After a short time to recover, Zolna returned to the firehouse to see his friends once again. There, his rescuers were waiting by the seat he occupies six out seven days of the week.
“You guys did a helluva a job,” Zolna told DNA Info. “I have nothing but thanks for the guys that are sitting in here.”
Zolna has been a diabetic for nearly 40 years. That’s why on the day he skipped coffee and missed lunch due to a doctor’s appointment, he had a heart attack.
“They keep feeding me cakes and cookies now to keep my blood sugar up,” Zolna said.
After the doctor’s appointment, Zolna had gone into his basement and fell asleep in his chair. His wife, Luce, came home soon after to their dog running around the kitchen and barking at the entrance to the basement. The dog’s unusual behavior told Luce something was wrong. She investigated.
She had found Zolna cold and twitching. Luce called her neighbor Katherine Gilbin, an ambulance commander, and neighbor Victoria Janozik, a nearby paramedic, to get help. Gilbin called 911 while Janozik called the firehouse to get emergency personnel on the scene. Zolna soon went into cardiac arrest and had a seizure.
Four medics and five firefighters arrived on the scene almost immediately – they knew Zolna and, being concerned for their friend, acted immediately. Following a series of chest compressions, they used a defibrillator to shock his heart back into a normal pace. He was rushed to local hospital shortly after. After being transferred to the University of Chicago Hospital, doctors installed a pacemaker/defibrillator device to help save his life if it happens again.
Zolna pulled through. About a month later, he was back at the firehouse with his friends once again. Although a stressful situation, his friends were more than glad to help their former colleague. They were also happy to share a much needed cup of coffee.