In the summer of 2020, McKinney Fire Captain Jonathon Followwell says he was in the best shape of his life.
At 43, he worked out daily, ate well and had received a clean bill of health from his cardiologist a few months prior.
So when the fire captain contracted what he thought was a mild case of COVID-19 in August of 2020, he spent his two weeks of quarantine working on his farm.
He returned to work feeling fine, but days later while in the middle of a workout outside Fire Station No. 5, he collapsed – sudden cardiac arrest.
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“I went to run a final lap around the fire station and I dropped dead. Had a massive heart attack and dropped dead right at the bottom of the hill,” Followwell said.
A passerby saw him collapse and alerted his friend and fellow firefighter in the station Micah Maxon.
“I was in denial at first. I thought he had just passed out. He was face down. I rolled him over and he was purple,” Maxon said. “I kinda knew the moment he took his last breath and I just jumped on his chest and started doing compressions.”
With the help of two other firefighters, Maxon performed CPR and used a defibrillator on his captain until Followwell’s heart finally started to beat again on the way to the hospital.
Four days later the firefighter woke up in the ICU – confused but alive.
Doctors told Followwell he had 100% blockage of his left artery, but miraculously, no neurological damage and no damage to his heart.
“I am sitting here talking to you by the grace and mercy of a big God. That’s the only way you can explain it,” Followwell said.
Yet, setbacks soon followed – including surgeries and a tracheostomy – complicated by his prior COVID-19 infection.
“COVID is real. Things that it is doing to people is real,” Followwell said.
While continuing his rehabilitation he received his vaccine in early March and encourages people to get their shot, too.
Through his long recovery, Followwell said little moments reminded him a higher power was at work.
“Every time I thought I saw the end of it, God said I’ve got something else for you but I learned from all of it,” Followwell said.
Colleague Micah Maxon said it’s taken a while to process everything that happened that day.
“We’ve done those same things for the last 15 years and the majority of the time it doesn’t work. And this time it does,” Maxon said. “For me I finally came to the decision that just give it to [God], let him take that burden, he’s in control. And he’s the one who worked through me to bring him back.”
Now a year after his own crew helped save his life, Jonathon is back at work again helping to save the lives of others.
“I told them all along I’d be back. It just took a while,” Followwell said.
The McKinney Fire Department is hosting an upcoming training for citizens on how to react in cases of a heart attack or mass casualty event. The training will cover 'Stop the Bleed' and hands-only CPR.