Ocoee resident Irene Simon meets her heroes

Irene Simon was clinically dead, until Ocoee firefighters Tom Smothers, Colin McCormick, Juan Rivera, Bronson Fernandez and Connor Heiskell arrived on scene last November.

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  • | 4:30 p.m. January 31, 2018
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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OCOEE – As someone who monitors her health with annual blood tests, flu shots and physical exams, she thought she’d see something like this coming.

But there were no warning signs for Irene Simon, a 75-year-old Ocoee resident who had a near-death experience in late November and awoke days later in a hospital unable to recall her correct age or the current year.

Before waking up in a hospital room with no recollection of what had transpired the prior three days, Simon found herself complaining of a sore throat to her husband, Alex Simon.

Alex, 82, went to the drugstore to pick up some throat lozenges. But when he returned, his wife said she thought she should go to the hospital. 

It took about two minutes for her husband to put their three dogs away and lock the door behind him, but when he turned around, he found her lying down on her side on the concrete of their driveway with the car door open, her eyes open and her cell phone by her hand.

Alex immediately called 911 for help. As the fire trucks neared, he screamed to get their attention and let them get to work once they arrived. He watched as the Ocoee firefighters – Tom Smothers, Colin McCormick, Juan Rivera, Bronson Fernandez and Connor Heiskell – used electroshock therapy to revive his wife.

“I just broke down into pieces,” he said. “I didn’t calm down until an older gentleman sat me down in the fire truck to tell me everything would be OK. What happened to her is that she was dead until they shocked her. She must have been dead for at least 10 to 15 minutes. So you’re looking at a person that would have been buried. Ten years ago, she would be under the ground. So thank God for all this new technology.”

Once the firefighters got a pulse, they rushed her to the hospital. Her husband later learned her cerebral blood flow had been interrupted by four blocked arteries, which required quadruple bypass surgery.

“One of her arteries was completely blocked, and it couldn’t get blood to her brain,” he said. “They found out she had multiple stoppages in her arteries, so they made the decision to transfer her to ORMC and she got quadruple bypass surgery.”

Irene, who awoke about two to three days after the surgery, said the first thing she remembers after the whole ordeal were doctors in her hospital room asking her questions to test her brain function. For two weeks, she was unable to correctly answer simple questions, such as her age or the current year. She is still unable to remember anything that happened immediately before she collapsed in her driveway.

“I don’t even remember complaining about a sore throat,” she said. “I don’t remember telling Alex I had to go to the hospital, and I don’t remember what was going on that made me think I had to go to the hospital — no pain or anything. It was really strange.”

But Irene is grateful to the doctors at Orlando Regional Medical Center and the Ocoee firefighters who saved her life. After the whole ordeal, she called the city’s fire rescue department to personally thank them.

“I called them up to thank him because I originally thought it was just one guy,” she said. “So I called and asked to thank the guy who brought me back to life, and he said there were five of them. And then he told me they were having an award ceremony soon and invited me to come and give each one of them an award.”

She met the five men who brought her back to life and presented a lifesaving award and badge to each of the firefighters at the Ocoee Fire Rescue Awards Ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 25.

“She could have ended up a vegetable,” her husband said. “Ten years ago they would have buried her because we didn’t have the technology we have now – chilling her down to 56 degrees and the shock therapy they did to make her heart start functioning again — that didn’t exist back then. But I’m glad she’s back. It was unbelievable.”


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