Fairfield officer honored for reviving patient after heart attack

Photo of Jordan Fenster

FAIRFIELD — James Perez is a lieutenant now, so he’s not often the first on scene at police calls.

“I was on the road, went for a ride,” he said, recalling a day in October last year. “All of a sudden this medical call came in.”

He was a block away, so Perez, shift commander at the Fairfield Police Department, decided to speed over to Anytime Fitness on Black Rock Turnpike and see if he could assist.

“I don’t take calls. I am an administrator now. I just happened to be driving and literally be half a block from where the call came from,” Perez said. “When I got there this personal trainer was waving me on. I ran over to him.”

This week, Perez was honored for saving town resident Thomas Bauder’s life that day, receiving the “lifesaving medal” at a meeting of police commissioners. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal had previously sent a certificate of special recognition to Perez, and Bauder’s wife, Carol, sent a card.

“I sent him a fruit basket,” Bauder said.

Perez said when he arrived at the health club that day last year he was told someone had hit their head, and there was a gash on the head of the prone man on the gym’s floor. About 15 people stood around the patient.

Perez checked for a pulse and, while it was weak at first, a second check revealed that the situation had changed. There was no EMS bag, no equipment at all, and Perez was the only emergency responder on scene.

Thomas Bauder, now 73 years old, said he was on an exercise bike at the time. “I just remember falling off and that was it,” he said.

“There was no pulse, so I started CPR,” Perez said. “About the eighth pump or so, all of a sudden he took a big breath.”

Bauder faded in and out, with Perez doing three rounds of chest compressions. EMS arrived and Bauder was taken to St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

A month later, Perez received a letter from Terrance Sheehan, EMS coordinator at the hospital.

“As you know, survival from cardiac arrest is a rare event. It is even more rare that the patient leaves the hospital with a good outcome,” Sheehan wrote to Perez. “Thanks to your prompt recognition and immediate treatment of this patent, he was discharged from the hospital.”

That was the first Perez had heard — “I received a letter from the hospital and I was like, ‘Oh, so he’s alive.’”

Despite the accolades he has received for his life-saving efforts, Perez said the chance to save a life is its own reward.

“It feels good. Oftentimes in policing we deal with the negative side of it, including taking a life,” he said. “It makes policing worth it.”

Bauder is now back at the gym, though his diet has changed some and he has a defibrillator now. There’s no doubt in Bauder’s mind that Perez did, in fact, save his life.

“Without the CPR I was gone,” he said.