PARMA, Ohio (WJW) – Parma Fire Captain Ricky Fetter has dedicated his career to helping others.
“It’s so weird how we go out and save people all the time but we don’t really pay attention to our own selves,” Fetter said.
His body was trying to warn him of his own five-alarm fire back in September while he was instructing new firefighters — weighed down with 60 pounds of equipment.
“I did feel a little short of breath that day, but I just chalked it up to maybe I’m a little out of shape, maybe it’s the mask thing that’s causing me this.”
But in November, it happened again.
“I was walking up these steps on Ridge Road toward our city hall and I got super short of breath, and the weirdest thing happened. At that point, my wife out of the blue FaceTimed me.”
Noticing he looked pale and grey, his wife Kate, a nurse, urged him to go to University Hospitals where they performed an EKG.
“I kind of know what I’m looking for and as they were doing it to me, I was like, ‘uh oh, that ain’t good.”‘
It was worse than he thought. After a cardiac catheterization, Dr. Raju Modi found five cardiac vessels were more than 80% blocked, including his left anterior descending artery — also known as the widow maker.
“When you combine all of those arteries that were blocked and the severity of the blockage, we had opted to proceed with bypass surgery the following day,” said Modi.
Only two months after his surgery, Ricky was able to return to the station after working hard at cardiac rehab.
“They really pushed me because they know what kind of job I do.”
Fire Chief Mike Lasky says Ricky’s diagnosis caused dozens of police officers and firefighters in the area to do their own due diligence.
“A lot of guys sat there and said boy, I’ve really got to figure out if anything’s going on with myself, so they all went and got tested.”
Many of Ricky’s colleagues went to UH to get free coronary calcium score tests, among other tests, and Ricky says some did find early signs of cardiac problems but are able to manage them with medication.
The health scare has been emotional for Ricky and his family.
“I think my wife is truly an angel. She saved my life.”
It’s taught him that he has to “first respond” to himself.
“You’ve got to look out for yourself. This job will kill you if you don’t take care of yourself.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, sudden cardiac death is one of the leading causes of death for firefighters.
Aside from being a firefighter, Ricky is also Parma’s EMS coordinator, runs UH Parma Medical Center’s EMS program and is a Midwest Director for the American Heart Association.
He is using all of his platforms to teach people about his experience in hopes that no one else will have to go through what he had to.