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Contra Costa EMS Reunites First Responders with Patients They Rescued

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Concord resident Kevin O'Conner with wife Donna, surrounded first responders who rescued him during a July medical emergency from the Concord Police Department, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and American Medical Response.

Kevin O'Conner heard his wife Donna arrive home with friends about a 9:45 on what seemed like another uneventful Friday night in July.

The eventful part of the evening came without warning.

"They say I was talking away like normal," he said of the moments before a heart attack almost claimed his life. "Then I just dropped on the couch."

O'Conner's collapse touched off a high-speed sequence of actions and decisions. Wife Donna called 911 immediately. The emergency dispatcher gave clear, firm directions for CPR. The first arriving police officer brought the automated external defibrillator from his car and administered the first shock.

Fire, ambulance and emergency department all performed on time and effectively. And because they did, O'Conner and his family were able to stand at a podium Wednesday, Nov. 20 and personally thank every first responder and EMS professional who helped to save his life that night.

"Without all of these guys, I would not be here right now," O'Conner said. "They don't get enough thank yous for the job they do."

Kevin's was one of many survival stories told Wednesday the 4th annual Survivors' Reunion Luncheon, an event hosted by the Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMS) to connect county residents who experienced medical emergencies with the first responders who rescued them.

EMS, a division of Contra Costa Health Services, also announced recipients of its annual awards for Contra Costa first responders who demonstrate exemplary service and professional skill at the luncheon, held at The Clubhouse at Boundary Oak in Walnut Creek.

"Today is about celebrating the lives of those around us who have experienced near catastrophic events over the past year," said EMS prehospital care coordinator Michelle Voos, event organizer. "It's equally about honoring our community of emergency personnel and stakeholder partners for their willingness to step in and make a difference in the lives of strangers."

Seven people who survived with help from Contra Costa EMS providers got the chance to give thanks personally during a reception prior to the luncheon. All responders involved, from bystanders who performed CPR to ambulance medics to hospital staffs, received Siren Team awards for their efforts.

Lists of Siren Team award recipients will be posted soon at

EMS also announced recipients of its individual, peer-nominated annual awards:

  • Star of Life: Firefighter paramedic Kevin Brashem of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District
  • Compassionate Caregiver: Dr. Christopher Newton of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland
  • Lifetime Achievement: Concord police Sgt. Christine Magley
  • Heart of EMS: Flight medic Brianna Leishman of REACH Air Medical Services

The county's EMS system responded to more than 105,000 emergency calls in 2018, according to the 2018 Contra Costa EMS System Performance Report. More than 2,500 EMS professionals serve the county's system, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, dispatchers and hospital emergency department staffs.

Visit for more information about Contra Costa's EMS Agency.

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