Around 1 p.m. Sunday, April 16, Reedy Creek firefighter Steve Hollingsworth, 43, responded to a call — just like any other day at work.
Although it wasn’t his call, Hollingsworth willingly offered to take the call with his partner.
Hollingsworth stood up and immediately felt dizziness and some tightness around his chest.
“I didn’t think anything of it really because our job is physical,” he said. “I thought maybe I was dehydrated because I had been doing a lot of physical movement that week. As time progressed, I still just wasn’t feeling right.”
After responding to the call and taking a young boy and his mother to Celebration Hospital, Hollingsworth still felt off.
His partner, a medic, asked him if he wanted to get checked out, which he declined. Hollingsworth took some vitals on himself and said he would be fine.
The pair went to Publix to buy food for the crew; Hollingsworth stayed in the vehicle.
“When we left Publix, we were driving back, and I still wasn’t feeling good,” he said. “It was actually getting a little worse, and there was an intersection where you either go right to go back to our station or you go straight to go back to the hospital. Well, I went straight, because I knew something wasn’t right.”
Hollingsworth went back to the hospital, parked the truck and walked through the door. He reached for a hospital bed that was sitting at the front entrance.
Then, everything went black.
Hollingsworth awoke and thought he had missed a call.
He said people were yelling at him and he was seeing ceiling lights flashing. He was told he had a heart attack.
“They said I fell face down, my partner rolled me over, and I wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse,” he said. “My partner was yelling for help from the hospital staff. Someone came in and started CPR on me until the doctor came in with a monitor. I was still in a pulseless rhythm, and they put the pads on me and shocked me once and continued CPR. At some point … I woke up and started seeing the lights.”
Hollingsworth’s wife, Kristin, said she received a call from Hollingsworth’s partner at 3:35 p.m. from her husband’s phone. The couple’s oldest daughter, Kaylee, 17, was at work. Middle daughter Kyleigh, 15, was not home, and the youngest daughter, Khloe, 10, was with her mother.
Kristin Hollingsworth said Steve Hollingsworth’s mother and father met her in the driveway as soon as they could.
“We were all in different spots, but we all ended up at the hospital at the same time, literally when they were bringing him back for the cath,” she said. “His partner and another partner were both calling me, sending me texts, taking pictures and making sure we were involved with knowing what was happening with him.”
The cardiologist told Steve Hollingsworth he needed a heart stent and took him to the cath lab.
Steve Hollingsworth had a 100% block in the left anterior descending artery. The survival rate outside the hospital for the condition is only about 20%.
However, Steve Hollingsworth walked out of the hospital with no assistance after fewer than 48 hours.
‘BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE’
Just six months before his heart attack, Steve Hollingsworth had completed all of his fire department physicals.
Thursday, April 13, Steve Hollingsworth said he had been participating in training at a salvage yard where the crew cut up three cars. That same night, he responded to a call requiring him to cut a victim out of a car. Saturday, April 15, he coached his children in softball.
Although all of the activities were physically draining, he never noticed anything out of the ordinary before the day of the heart attack.
Steve Hollingsworth shared he has lost a lieutenant who was working out from a heart episode, and before that, he had a friend who was in favorable health who could not come back to work after suffering from a heart attack.
Less than a week ago, Steve Hollingsworth also lost a close friend who was in a similar situation.
Steve Hollingsworth said his friend dying from a possible heart-related issue almost exactly two months to the day he had his own heart attack hit too close to home.
“You have to be your own advocate,” he said. “You have to.”
Steve Hollingsworth is urging people to obtain a coronary calcium scan from their doctor. Calcium deposits are an early sign of coronary artery disease.
Since the incident, the fire department and crews have been asking about the scans and obtaining better physicals.
Steve Hollingsworth said he also suggests residents follow up on “ICE.”
ICE is where you put the word “ICE” by the names of the people you would want called in case of an emergency.
Born and raised in Winter Garden, Steve Hollingsworth began working for the Reedy Creek Fire Department in 2013, although he has served as a firefighter since 2004. Kristin Hollingsworth said a million thoughts were racing through her mind when she found out what happened to her husband.
“You just never expect a phone call,” she said. “But we had so much support from the fire departments; it was amazing to see the care that they take for one of theirs and for us. Steve’s mom and dad were with us and his sister and all that, but it was literally everyone from on shift. I don’t know how they kept working, but they were there for us in the hallways. The hallways were filled with people.”
Steve Hollingsworth said he generally likes to be by himself, but when he got out of the hospital, part of what the Reedy Creek Benevolent Fund did at his wife’s request was host a “Sit with Steve,” where people signed up for two weeks for two hour increments to come and sit with him during his recovery. He said people from all over Orlando and even farther came.
The benevolent fund also put together a meal train for the family for two weeks. When the meal train ended, a good friend and neighbor picked up the meal train for two additional weeks.
“The girls (the daughters) — while we were in the hospital and stuff — you know they said, ‘You hear of things like this happening, but you don’t ever think that you’re going to be in that position where people are going to rally around you,’” Kristin Hollingsworth said. “They were just amazed at how many people actually care and (what) they do for you. They talk about it still to this day.”
The Reedy Creek Benevolent and the Reedy Creek Fire Department Pipes & Drums are partnering to host a second birthday celebration fundraiser for Steve Hollingsworth. The event will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 25, at the Winter Garden Elks Lodge.
Community organizations such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Winter Garden Restaurant, Country House, Oakland General, The MoonCricket Grille, Kelly’s Foods and Cut Ups have all contributed to the event.
The event will include a raffle for prizes, cornhole tournament, pipes and drums performance, and awards.
Attendees can pay $20 for a “STEMI STEVE” 16-ounce cup with two drink tickets and a meal. All proceeds will go to the Hollingsworth family.