Jamestowner gets a second chance at life thanks to local heroes
Most people cannot claim anyone ever saved their life, but Bruce Matoes of Jamestown now has three heroes to thank. He has made it into an exclusive club of individuals who literally have been given a second chance at life.
“I was dead,” Matoes said after he reviewed the computer printout from the automated external defibrillator. The short black lines on the reams of paper showed his heart flatlined three times after he collapsed at the Narragansett Café around midnight on Sept. 23.
Matoes, who turned 54 last month, said doctors at Newport Hospital were incredulous he had survived.
Police Chief Ed Mello offered a similar observation. “It’s not very common we are bringing someone back to life, and I’m able to speak to him a couple of days later,” he said.
Matoes returned from the dead when a bystander and two police officers resuscitated him after he went into cardiac arrest.
The story started when Matoes went to the Narragansett Café with his cousin, Marilyn Matoes, to hear his favorite band, 5 Flavor Discount.
Earlier that night, he had been working at his second job at Fort Adams. Originally, he intended to go home and go to bed after work. But on the spur of the moment, he decided to go hear the band. He called his cousin and asked her if she wanted to join him. They arrived around 10 p.m. The band had just finished a set and was taking a break.
“We were sitting down talking,” he said. “Angela, the drummer, came over and asked me if I had my tambourine.”
Would he play with them when they started the next set?
Matoes retrieved the tambourine from his car. He and his cousin went out on the dance floor right in front of the stage.
“I was having a grand old time rattling that tambourine,” he said. The band wheeled through a medley of three disco tunes, and he and Marilyn were dancing.
“He said he was very hot,” Marilyn remembers. Then the set ended, and they went back to their seats. A friend arrived. Bruce greeted her with a hug.
“He hugged her,” she said. Right then, Matoes, who was looking at the ceiling, fell back with his arms outstretched like he was flying. He landed on the café’s wood burning stove, which was off.
“He fell gently,” said Marilyn. “Like an angel laid him down.” She thought he was playing a prank.
Moments later, she realized he was in a medical emergency. She remembers screaming and asking people to call 911. She started to undo his shirt buttons to administer CPR, and then some people came to help. They lowered Matoes to the floor, and then a Jamestown resident, Patrick Foley of Clinton Street, started CPR.
Police were dispatched around midnight. “They were here within minutes,” Marilyn said, “but it felt like forever.”
Mello said Patrolman Ronald Jacobson was first to arrive at the scene, and then Patrolman Mark Esposito.
Jacobson took over the CPR. “He was really, really good,” Marilyn said, but she remembers standing over him and telling Jacobson to keep trying.
She said she remembers screaming, “Don’t lose him.” At one point, the officer told her to be quiet because they couldn’t hear if Matoes was breathing.
“I’m usually a very calm person, but I kind of lost my mind,” she said. “I just lost another cousin, and I was overwhelmed. He wasn’t coming back. He was dead.”
He flatlined the first two times the police shocked his chest. Then the third time, his heart started beating.
“The whole time, I felt a presence wanting to take him away,” she said, “but I wouldn’t let him go. It felt like a tug of war I had with that spirit.”
She did lose one thing that night – the tambourine. Someone handed it to her, and she thinks she dropped it.
Mello said the defibrillator without a doubt made the difference for Matoes, but ironically, those machines, which police carry in the car, rarely do save a life. They’re automatic devices, which read the patient’s vital signs and then say whether or not to shock the heart. Most often, the instruction is not to shock, according to Mello.
But this time, the machine told the officers to deliver a shock.
“It’s clearly what led to saving Mr. Matoes’ life,” Mello said. “By the time he left there, he was breathing.”
The last thing Matoes remembers was a feeling like being hit by an electric bolt. When he woke up, he was riding in an ambulance on the way to Newport Hospital’s emergency room.
“I felt like I was in a dream,” he said. “I was a little confused.” He heard the ambulance crew saying he was awake. They were elated. Then he realized what happened.
Matoes said he wants to thank Foley, the police officers, the Jamestown EMS and all the people at the café who helped. Mello commended Foley for his actions, and praised the two police officers on scene.
“I just think it is amazing,” Matoes said. “The doctors said this doesn’t happen usually. The person doesn’t make it. I was out for at least 25 minutes. I’m amazed to have a second chance at life. It’s unbelievable.”