Heroic Response

4 mins read

Off-duty Burton Fire Chief saves man during Disney vacation

By Bob Sofaly

Battalion Chief Matthew Maichel of the Burton Fire District was in vacation mode when his life-saving instincts were called upon.

Maichel was on a family vacation at Walt Disney World in Florida recently with his wife, three kids and his mother-in-law and father-in-law. The family had arrived early to be among the first guests to enter Disney’s Animal Kingdom when Maichel had to switch off vacation mode.

“We were waiting in line for the doors to open and 50 feet in front of me a lady started yelling for help,” Maichel recalled. “As I approached, there were already a couple of bystanders there. There was also a gentleman, about 60 years old, lying on the ground in full cardiac arrest.”

Maichel said he and a few others initiated CPR. 

A couple seconds later one of the Disney employees showed up with an Automatic External Defibrillator. The group continued CPR for 10-12 minutes and multiple shocks with the AED. A doctor in the crowd initiated CPR compressions, while Maichel did the breathing. 

“We had to switch off three or four times,” Maichel said of their exhausting efforts.

The man came around once. 

“He had a pulse and tried to push us off from doing CPR,” Maichel said. “But he laid right back down and we had to start all over.”

Maichel said they continued CPR until Orlando Fire and EMS showed up and transported the man to a hospital.

“I’m not really sure of the outcome of the patient,” Maichel said. “I don’t even know which hospital where he was taken. I don’t even know the name of the doctor I worked with.”

Maichel said that although he has performed CPR numerous times as a firefighter, he’s never done it off-duty. 

“I was trained and a bad situation happened to someone and I was able to help,” he said. “I guess it’s true, we are never ‘off duty.’”

Maichel is the third Burton firefighter to be recognized for saving a life while off-duty. In 2016, Burton Lieutenant Ethan Webb was recognized for saving the life of a woman while off-duty by administrating CPR, and in 2017 Burton Deputy Chief Tom Webb was recognized for responding off-duty to save the lives of two kayakers who capsized near his home.             

The Burton Fire District has recently been designated an American Heart training facility, providing first aid and CPR training to the public and businesses. Training officers can also train citizens to be instructors themselves. If you are interested in learning first aid and CPR, becoming an instructor, or would like more information on the program, call the Burton Fire District at 843-255-8011 or email safetyed@burtonfd.org. 

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