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PARMA, Ohio — A first responder who needs medical attention of his own is exactly what Parma Fire Captain Ricky Fetter experienced last fall due to a dangerous and serious heart condition.

“Last September I realized I was getting a little short of breath while we were conducting a cadet class at Tri-C,” said Fetter, 50, who is from Cincinnati and lives in Medina. “I just chalked it up as out of shape. The COVID restrictions hampered our ability to exercise.”

When the same thing happened a few weeks later, Fetter dismissed the symptoms. Then, a few days later, as he walked out of breath up the many flights of stairs from the fire station to City Hall, something happened that eventually saved his life.

“The weird thing was, out of the blue, my wife, who is a nurse, contacted me on Facetime,” Fetter said. “She said I looked grey, something was wrong and I needed to see a doctor straight away.”

It was at this point that Fetter made the short trip to UH Parma Medical Center, where he was scheduled for a cardiac catheterization several days later.

“The doctor told me I had 80 percent clogged five of the seven major arteries, so he scheduled me for immediate open-heart surgery the next morning,” Fetter said.

The cardiologist Dr. Raju Modi of the UH Parma Medical Center said Fetter came to the hospital with symptoms strongly suggesting unstable angina, which is why his catheterization was expedited.

“The results of the procedure confirmed our suspicion of significant obstructive coronary disease,” said Modi. “Due to the nature of the findings involving the left main coronary artery along with the left anterior descending artery and the right coronary artery, he was sent for surgical revascularization the next day.

“Although he became aware of us relatively quickly, there was a three-week break when he began to notice symptoms and was seen. I wish he would acknowledge the symptoms immediately. Everything worked out well in the end and he is doing great.”

Modi added that anyone with symptoms of chest pain on exertion, shortness of breath, jaw pain or back pain should see a doctor right away.

Considering what he’s been through, Fetter is now telling everyone within earshot to be proactive about his own healthcare. So far, a few dozen of his colleagues have gone for health screenings.

“The doctors told me that I would probably have died in a few more days,” Fetter said. “It scared me because I have two kids who are paramedics and another in the medical field. All I could think about was that I couldn’t believe I was going to die at 49. It really scared me.

“I said to myself that day that if I survive this I’m going to really get my story out there and get our boys to get screens, check blood pressure and really take a look at their own health. To be honest, I’ve been doing this for a long time and we’re always helping other people. We sometimes forget to help ourselves.”