Life line: Survivor meets dispatcher who coached CPR over phone
GREENWICH — Scot Weicker picked the wrong night to have a heart attack.
A powerful coastal storm lashed the region on March 2, bringing down hundreds of trees, knocking out power to his home and putting heavy strain on the local emergency-management network.
But he was fortunate in every other respect. The so-called “chain of survival” that pulls people from the brink of death was functioning like a well-oiled machine that night.
“I’m a lucky man,” Weicker recalled this week. “The stars aligned so that my life was saved that day.”
In a spirit of humble gratitude, Weicker, who runs an event management company, came to the public-safety complex last week to offer his appreciation for the men and women who worked to save his life that stormy night in March. He offered a special note of thanks to the 911 dispatcher who calmly walked his wife, Lisa Weicker, through the life-saving procedures that kept the blood moving in his body after his heart had stopped.
“Needless to say, I thanked my wife first,” said Weicker, who manages the Greenwich Town Party every summer, among other events. “She kept her cool during some very trying circumstances that evening.”
Weicker, 60, has no memories at all of that evening, but the narrative of his ordeal was pieced together in later days.
“It happened during the nor’easter. Our power was out, so my wife and I were having dinner in front of the fire,” he recalled. “I said I wasn’t feeling well, ‘I think I’m going upstairs and go to bed.’”
She suggested instead that he lie down in the adjoining TV room, which he did — a seemingly small turn of events, but fateful, as it turned out.
“A while later she heard me gasping for breath. She came in and felt for a pulse, and it was a very weak pulse. She called 911,” Weicker said.
The voice on the other end belonged to Matthew Alessi, a 911 telecommunicator who was handling dozens of calls that night.
“Put the phone on speaker and listen to me,” Alessi directed Lisa Weicker.
Alessi, a seasoned dispatcher with a background as a volunteer firefighter, said he aimed to be as reassuring as he could.
“She was clearly very upset at the time,” he said. “I tried to calm her down as much as she could. I told her to keep doing chest compressions until the EMTs arrived. It was basically coaching on my end, to keep her focused. They train us to be calm, precise and clear, and I tried to do all that.”
Lise Weicker did 88 chest compressions, to keep blood moving in her husband’s circulatory system. She pushed hard.
“I know she was doing it right - she broke two of my ribs,” Scot Weicker said. “That’s doing it right. She was listening to Matt as she guided her through this, so professionally, so calmly. Without him on the other end of the line, I most likely would not be here. Those first few minutes are crucial.”
Police arrived at their Riverside residence with minutes, and an officer applied a defibrillator that re-started Weicker’s heart. Members from the Greenwich Emergency Medical Service arrived a minute after police and continued life-saving procedures, then transported him to Greenwich Hospital. Weicker said he considers himself fortunate that an experienced cardiologist was at the hospital, Dr. Christopher Howes, who immediately put a stent in his heart. Another surgical procedure followed two days later.
Now that he’s recovered from his brush with death, Weicker said he feels a surge of gratitude.
“So many things lined up for me,” he said. “We’re so lucky in this town. Very fortunate.”
He said he made a point of thanking everyone who responded to his call for help, “from the bottom of my heart,” and to meet Alessi in person.
Alessi said it was a professional highlight to meet Weicker, after that traumatic phone call that brought the two men together.
“I wasn’t expecting it. And a very nice guy. You usually don’t get to meet the people you help. It was pretty cool. It brought everything together,” the emergency dispatcher said. “Very rewarding.”
Weicker, who had no history of cardiac disease prior to his heart attack, said he has a new appreciation for life now that he’s recovered.
“I have so much to live for,” he said. “And I’m a grateful and humble person at this point.”