It’s been 13 years, but Maria Van Way has not forgotten the day she
came close to dying.
As she sat in the living room of her Burbank home on Feb. 2, 1990,
she began feeling ill and then stopped breathing.
Her husband frantically began trying to resuscitate her and called
paramedics, who performed CPR and other life-saving measures at her
home and on the way to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. There,
she was treated for a severely blocked artery.
In three days, she suffered six heart attacks. If it weren’t for
her husband, five Burbank firefighters and several physicians, she
would have died, she said.
Every year since, the Burbank firefighters who responded that day
have received a thank-you letter from Van Way on the anniversary of
her emergency. Receiving such letters are a rarity, considering the
plethora of calls they go on each year, firefighters said.
“I’m very grateful for what they did,” she said. “I don’t have
anything but praise for them.”
Van Way, who was a bilingual aid at McKinley Elementary School at
the time of the incident, said she’s lived to watch her daughter grow
older. She’s been able to run in marathons to raise money for AIDS
research and worked as an extra in television programs.
“I feel more sympathetic to human beings, and more understanding
in some ways,” she said.
Firefighters said it’s rare to receive such thanks. Even they
forget about similar calls because it’s simply a part of their job,
“Everybody’s quick to complain about certain things, but when
somebody takes the time to do something like that, it makes you feel
good,” said Battalion Chief Ray Krakowski, who was captain/paramedic
on the scene at the time.
With him then were firefighter/paramedics Ron Bell, Royce Nix and
Frank Walbert, as well as engineer Kirk Wishart.