Mark Robertson

Mark Robertson

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Must see! An emergency stop at a closed fire station saved her life

Sherry Kyles is convinced Battalion Fire Chief Kurt Harthun saved her life, and this week she got to meet him for the first time since her Oct. 28 emergency.

Experiencing a rapid heartbeat and lightheadedness that wouldn't so away, Kyles was headed to the hospital where she works but she didn't think she'd make it there.

"I felt that I had enough time," she said. "And I felt that it was mild enough I could make it to the hospital. My vision was so blurry. I was sweating so bad," she said. "I couldn't even really see my phone."

"God spoke to me," she said. "And he said, 'Make a U-Turn and get to the fire department.'"

Kyles pulled into fire station, which she did not know was closed for renovations. At first, Kyles said she parked outside the building and began honking her horn. "Nobody came out, so I went inside," she said. "I just start yelling for help and start beating on the ambulances to get someone's attention."

Battalion Chief Kurt Harthun said had Kyles arrived five minutes later, no one would've been at the station. They were there finishing up paperwork after a training session. 

"All of a sudden, we heard a car honking outside. All of a sudden, we heard a voice inside cause the overhead door was open."

Harthun said they went into the bay and saw Kyles, who looked ill. They checked her heart rate and saw it was over 200 beats per minute, a dangerously high rate for someone who hadn't been exercising.

Further testing revealed Kyles had a condition where the heart is beating so fast, it fails to get oxygenated blood out to the body.

It's not a heart attack; that is when blood flow to the heart is restricted. Harthun said SVT can be treated fairly easily; often times, people can slow their heart rate through breathing techniques, lying down or putting ice water on their faces.

Other times, though, medical attention is necessary. Harthun said if Kyles didn't pull into the station, she might've passed out and crashed her car.

Had no one been at the fire station, Kyles could've fainted there, and her life would've been in danger depending on how long it took someone to notice her.

"Someone was looking out for Sherry."

The firefighters administered IV treatment, which lowered Kyles' heart rate until an ambulance could arrive.

When those paramedics showed up, Kyles immediately recognized one of them; he was one of her son's childhood friends.

"It just was like...I've known this kid since he was like-," Kyles said, gesturing with her hand to mimic the height of a child. "And he was like, 'I'm not gonna let anything happen to you.'"

Kyles said she went to the firehouse three times in hopes of finding Harthun. She expressed her gratitude while sitting on the back of the same firetruck where she was treated nine days earlier.

"Even though it's your job, you went above and beyond to just secure me," she told Harthun.

Harthun said he was inspired to take paramedic training when, as a member of the Milwaukee Fire Department, he saw paramedics revive a patient who was in SVT. 

Even as a veteran firefighter of 35 years, Harthun said he was also moved by the experience with Kyles. 

"These are the things I call the 'a-ha moments,' where you have truly made a difference in somebody's life," he said. "And they can go on to continue living their life."

Like I always say, in life there are no accidents. What an amazing story!

Portrait of Fire Fighters in Front of Fire Station

Photo: Ariel Skelley / The Image Bank / Getty Images

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