Being thankful: Robins aircraft mechanic reunites with first responders

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Robins Public Affairs

The reunion Steve Malanson had been waiting for finally happened. July 14, he walked into the 78th Civil Engineer Group Fire Department’s main station at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, to thank the first responders who saved his life six weeks ago after he started having chest pains.

“I come here to thank everybody. I owe my life to you all because my cardiologist told me it was just that bad. So thank you all very much,” Malanson said to the group of firefighters who saved his life. “My cardiologist said what I had was the next worst you could have - with the ‘widow maker’ being the worse - mine was next in line. The doctor said if it was not for the rapidness of this team I would not be here.”

Malanson works as an aircraft mechanic with the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Hangar 91, which is directly behind the fire station.

He initially thought the chest pains he was feeling were heartburn.

What he experienced was a major heart attack. Malanson had two arteries which were 80 % blocked and another artery which was completely blocked.

Assistant Fire Chief Todd Surber responded first to the medical emergency at the hangar.

Surber said when he arrived, Malanson’s co-workers had him on the ground and were using an Automatic External Defibrillator.

“We appreciate him coming over and are glad it worked out for him the way it did,” said Surber. “There are a lot of times we do not know what happened with a patient. We only have 10 or 15 minutes to be with them and try to affect a positive outcome the best we can.”

As a token of thanks, Malanson gave medallions to the seven-member first response crew who assisted in his care.

When he approached paramedic Roy Howard, he gave him a huge hug.

 “That gentleman right there really calmed my nerves big time,” said Malanson. “I have anxiety to begin with. He told me not to worry about anything, take these aspirin and you will be fine. But I could look in his eyes and tell different. The old saying ‘the eyes don’t lie.’”            

Howard said encounters like the one with Malanson are truly just a part of the job.

“We know how potentially dangerous some of these medical conditions are, and we know expediency is important,” Howard said.

Howard then added, “Even though you are feeling these emotions, you have do your best to contain everything and following your training and education.”

Malanson spent three days at the hospital. Since being released, he has incorporated some lifestyle changes.

“I feel great!” he said. “I lost a bunch of weight and am doing what my cardiologist said. So I am staying away from that fried stuff and salt. I exercise. You do not have to go crazy with it, but just exercise and mainly eat healthy.”