Manassas Journal Messenger | Strangers rally to save Montclair man

Vic Fraenckel is happy to be alive after his heart went into arrhythmia and he collapsed in the parking lot at Lowe’s Home Improvement off Prince William Parkway.

He has a lot of people and a couple of lucky stars to thank for his survival and is thankful to every one of them.

So is his wife Eydie Fraenckel.

Arrhythmia is anything that causes the heart to beat out of rhythm.

“Your heart beats about 300 beats a minute and just gives out,” the 40-year-old Vic Fraenckel said “It’s a genetic disorder that I have.”

The disorder is one people usually don’t know about until it’s too late, Vic Fraenckel said.

“People that have this, the first time they have it is when they die,” he said.

It happened about three weeks ago just before noon on a Sunday and Vic is finally starting to feel like himself again.

“A couple of days ago I started feeling pretty good,” Vic Fraenckel said Sunday.

He doesn’t remember anything of the days surrounding the event but his wife does.

They were returning a door to the home improvement store.

Eydie said she went inside while Vic unloaded the door from his truck.

When she returned to the parking lot she found Vic unconscious in the driver’s seat of the truck.

“His head was slumped forward. His tongue was sticking out. His eyes had rolled back,” the 37-year-old Eydie Fraenckel said.

Eydie kept her wits long enough to pull Vic from the truck and stretch him on the ground, but that was the extent of her ability that day.

“I immediately knew that there was no way I was going to be sane enough to make a 911 call and be coherent,” she said

“I immediately stood up and screamed ‘Someone call 911! someone call 911!’ ” she said.

Eydie also asked if anyone knew CPR.

A man named Omar Guttierez, who had just completed a CPR class, volunteered from the gathering crowd and started working on Vic, Eydie said.

As Guttierez worked, Bernard Fields, an off-duty Dale City Volunteer Fire and Rescue lieutenant, came upon the scene.

Ann Anastasio, an off-duty registered nurse, got there about the same time.

“I saw the crowd and wondered what was going on,” Fields said.

Fields and Anastasio took over for Guttierez.

No one knows how long Vic was out before his wife found him.

Vic was in bad shape by the time they arrived, Fields, 43, said.

“He was purple,” the 29-year, veteran volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician said.

Prince William County emergency medical technicians Rob Wiencko and Matt Norman arrived in the ambulance within two minutes of the 911 call.

They shocked Vic with the defribulators and administered oxygen.

Wiencko said Vic Fraenckel was “unrecognizable.”

“I had his driver’s license and he didn’t look like his picture at all,” Wiencko, 34, said.

Wiencko and Norman shocked Vic Fraenckel six times before his heart started beating again.

“The first shock was administered within two to three minutes,” Wiencko said. “By the time the sixth shock came that was a matter of four or five minutes.”

Vic was unconscious until Tuesday afternoon.

Doctors weren’t wondering if there would be brain damage. They were waiting to see how much brain damage Vic Fraenckel would suffer.

When he woke up, he was fine except for a couple of cracked ribs which he considers a small price.

“That’s to be expected after CPR,” Fraenckel said.

Eydie said she expected much worse.

“The fact that he’s walking is amazing, let alone even himself. It’s amazing, amazing, amazing,” said Eydie Fraenckel, the mother of an 11-year-old girl, a 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl.

The Fraenckels met Wiencko, Norman and Fields for the first time Sunday.

They hugged everybody.

Wiencko said it’s gratifying to meet one of his patients.

“We hardly ever get to see the patients after we take them to the hospital,” he said.

When they finally met, Wiencko told Vic Fraenckel that he was “looking a lot better.”

Potomac Hospital stabilized Vic Fraenckel before he was airlifted to Inova Fairfax where he got an internal defribulator and a pacemaker.

His ribs are healing and he feels good enough to return to work, but the doctors want him to wait a couple of months before they let him drive again to see if the pacemaker is working out OK.

Vic Fraenckel said that’s another small price to pay.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063

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