First responders work tirelessly to help those who need assistance. From the dispatcher and firefighters to the ambulance drivers, EMTs and police officers who respond to an emergency, they all play a role. Many times, after coming to the rescue and handing the case off to the next group, like a hospital staff, first responders often don’t know how things end up.
Six Boxford first responders, two and a half years later, got an update to a story they all played a pivotal role in and a “thank you” of a lifetime.
Mike and Jennie Gaiss were at a friend’s house watching the Patriots play the Falcons in Super Bowl LI – a normal Super Bowl party and an extraordinary game. As James White crossed into the end zone, everyone in the room leapt up in celebration.
Seconds later, the excitement turned to fear, as Mike slumped to the ground, exhibiting signs of a stroke.
Though Mike has since made a full recovery, that night it took friends, volunteers, firefighters, EMTs and more to ensure that he would be okay.
"We always joke that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick saved my husband’s life because we were literally the next day going to be hitting the road on a two-week road trip for a business that we were then working on," she said.
Fire Captain Jack Leary said it couldn't have been more than a minute or two before the call came in after Super Bowl LI.
"I remember my heart rate probably being in the 120s when the call came in because we were celebrating," he said.
Jennie finally found the perfect way to thank some of the people who saved her husband’s life, and with some help from the Patriots, members of the Boxford fire, police and communication department are standing on the Gillette Stadium sideline before the Patriots take on the Jets.
“A lot of times you might do something and you don’t hear anything about [the call],” Boxford police officer Dave Barker said. “Sometimes you do. Sometimes you get thank you cards. Sometimes you get letters. Sometimes people drop off cakes or muffins or doughnuts, stuff like that saying thank you. Certainly nothing like this.”
Officer Barker, Fire Captain Leary, Dispatcher Jim Fernandes, Fire Chief Brian Geiger and firefighters Matt Denomey and Kevin Foster were invited to the game, given field passes to watch pregame warmups and even met Robert Kraft.
"It was wonderful," Chief Geiger said. "We don’t go into the job for anybody to recognize us. For us, it’s what we do. We want to help people, but for anybody to come back and say thank you and then really go a step further to try and get us involved in an event is much appreciated."
Jennie's father served as a volunteer firefighter for years, so it is ingrained to show gratitude to those who serve their communities. She and Mike recently made the move to Vermont, and she said Mike is looking for ways to volunteer at their local fire department, helping with administrative work, fundraising or whatever else they might need.
By sharing their story, she hopes people look for ways to make a difference in their own communities, whether it's volunteering or supporting others.
"I hope people recognize that across this country we count on people like that to commit themselves to their communities and true fire and rescue, but there are also all kinds of other ways to make an impact in whatever community you’re a part of," she said. "I hope by recognizing these first responders that can sort of get people to consider themselves and what ways they may be able to make an impact in their community in a positive way."