K-State Celebrates its Wildcat Heroes
Dani Patterson, a certified nurse from Topeka, Kan., Loreen Buccigrossi, a certified nurse from Salina, Kan., and James Bond, K-State event staff and former member of Riley County EMS, had never met before Bridgham's heart attack, yet when he went down, they were quick and ready to be at his aid.
"I wasn't very far from him. He was a little to my right and about two rows down from me," Patterson explained about the day. "I kind of saw him go down out of the corner of my eye, and then they started hollering for help, so I went over to help him."
On Nov. 23, in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, it was a chilling 25 degrees with high winds at kickoff, making the cloudy day feel even colder than the temperature read. Bridgham, his son-in-law John Sheehe and his grandson Connor Sheehe were, like everyone else, bundled up because of the weather.
"At first I really thought because the weather was so cold maybe he had his layers of clothes too tight," continued Patterson, "so I loosened them a little bit and thought maybe he would take a breath, but he didn't. When he didn't, I told a couple of guys who had come over to help me to lay him down, and I had to start CPR on him.
"Loreen came right up behind me right after I started and said she was a PACU nurse and that she could help me, so she made sure his air way stayed open and we did CPR until EMS arrived."
Bond, owner of Konza Builders, has been working game days with the K-State Event Staff for nearly a year now, and when he got the call to check out a medical emergency on his side of the stadium he went over to be of assistance.
"I do different things on the stadium's west side, so when the call came in and when I got there, the two other ladies who were involved and had just started the CPR," Bond said as he recollected the events of that Saturday afternoon. "I double checked Bob and he had no pulse, so I called in a Code Blue on the radio and I started coordinating some resources. At one point, Dani got tired so I took over the CPR, and then EMS crew started to arrive."
Because of the quick actions of the three, Bridgham was able to make a speedy recovery, and while Bond said he was "just doing his job," he credits Bob's recovery to Patterson and Buccogrossi.
"The actions of Loretta and Dani were hugely attributed to the success of Bob's recovery because without that early intervention, all the advanced life support in the world doesn't do a lot of good," Bond said. "So really, their incredibly quick actions were immeasurable to the success."
Bond is a special member of the K-State Event Staff as he described the group he works with as a group of "problem solvers." A group of nearly a dozen people - EMS personnel, off duty policemen, former military officers and others trained to deal with security issues - make up this group in the K-State Event Staff and are at every game, ready and willing to solve any crisis that may arise.
"It's a lot of different people with different backgrounds, and it's our job to help solve problems," Bond explained. "You can't have 50,000 people around and not have any issues, so we just try and help be a solution to people. Whatever it might be, it's our job to be available whenever necessary and each of us have our own unique skill set."
While the three felt their actions were "no big deal" and that they were just doing what they knew how to do, in both the eyes of Bridgham and K-State Athletics, they were heroes.
"K-State is truly a wonderful organization, a family, and everybody is out for everybody else. There's always a helping hand when you need it," Bridgham, whose three children all went through school at K-State, said.
On Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, at halftime of K-State men's basketball's win over Oklahoma State, Buccigrossi, Patterson and Bond along with all the first responders involved that day were recognized on the court of Bramlage Coliseum and given a round of applause. Both K-State Athletics Director John Currie and Bridgham were there on the court as well to personally thank the group.
"I was really glad that they did that," Patterson explained. "Mostly, I was really happy that I got to see Bob. I do this all the time, so I really didn't need all the other attention that I got, but I was just perfectly content seeing him and knowing that he was okay."
Bridgham also appreciated having the opportunity to meet, for the first time, the people who saved his life.
"It was like going home and seeing fourth grade friends that you've known forever, that's the way I felt," explained Bridgham. "It was like I knew them, but obviously I had just met them. They made me feel so comfortable."
It was the first time the group had seen each other since the incident, and, along with the recognition on the court, they had the opportunity to meet up before the men's basketball game at a special private gathering hosted by K-State Athletics.
"The thing that was probably the most special to me was to be able to meet Bob and his family," Bond said. "The Athletics Department at K-State had a great reception for us to meet before the game. All of the paramedics and firefighters, their families, the other ladies, we all got to meet for about an hour in the West Stadium Center.
"It was sponsored by the university, and they hosted my family, all kinds of different families were there before the game. So to be able to share that with all those people together before the game really told me that family really is a big deal to K-State."
At the pregame luncheon, Bridgham had the opportunity to share a few words with the people who saved his life.
"I said, 'You're in my heart, and I know you were on my heart' - like a Rod Stewart song," he explained. "I just told them how much I loved them, how much they meant to me and thanked them for keeping me alive. My wife, Noreen, said it was the best Christmas present she had ever received."
The lunch, the game and the applause all made for a very special afternoon, but in the end, the best part for everyone was getting to meet Bridgham and see just how far he has come since that cold morning in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"It was really nice to see him and to see that he has done so well and has had such a great recovery," Patterson said. "It just proves that we did CPR and we did it well, because he didn't end up with and deficits during his event."
As the "Wildcat Heroes" were introduced and thanked for their actions over Bramlage Coliseum's public address system and a sold-out crowd stood to their feet to applaud, the group of first responders stood in awe. To them, their actions on Nov. 23, were not done to get any recognition, but to the K-State family, they are and always will be heroes.
"It was pretty amazing, everyone gave us a standing ovation," Patterson said. "I probably have never had that before and will probably never have that again. It was pretty awesome. It was a packed crowd for that game. It was amazing. "
A group of new friends formed from unlikely circumstances, Bridgham said the group is now looking forward to getting together again.
"I'm going out there (to Manhattan) in the summer, and I'm going to put on a party for everyone," he laughed.
Every day, people like Buccigrossi, Patterson, Bond, the EMTs and the first responders save the lives of others just doing their job. While to them it may just be a job, the heroic acts of these people do not go unnoticed, and K-State Sports Extra would like to extend an extra "Thank you!" to all these heroes of the Wildcat family.