Janice McCarthy and Trish Buchanan are women on a mission to raise awareness of suicide among first responders.
They were both married to police officers who took their own lives.
Their husbands, coincidentally, were both named Paul.
Massachusetts State Police Captain Paul McCarthy died on July 28, 2006. Janice later founded the nonprofit COPSS: Care of Police Suicide Survivors. East Hartford Police Officer Paul Buchanan died on March 12, 2013. Trish founded the Believe 208 organization, named for Paul’s badge number, to raise awareness of suicide among first responders.
It was at the Believe 208 5K race – held in honor of first responders and heroes lost – that Janice McCarthy almost suffered a tragic loss again, when her boyfriend Mike Randall collapsed within 200 yards of the finish line.
“I heard a thud,” she recalled. “And I turned around, and he was on the ground.”
Randall’s heart stopped in cardiac arrest.
“I died right there on the pavement,” he said. A team of police, firefighters and paramedics rushed in to bring him back from the brink of death. Every second counted, Randall said, because of a massive artery blockage. Doctors later told him that he would have suffered permanent brain damage in three minutes, and death within five.
Among the first by his side was off-duty Connecticut State Trooper Ken Dillon, who worked with firefighters and emergency medical personnel to prepare Randall for defibrillation. East Hartford Firefighter/Paramedic Matthew Barrera was halfway down the race course with the advanced lifesaving equipment and made it to the scene in less than 90 seconds.
“It was 14 seconds from the time I arrived to the time I shocked him and got his heart rhythm back,” said Barrera.
Randall was brought back to life.
“He was at a race for first responders, and they just jumped right into action and do what they do best,” said Buchanan.
Three months and a double bypass surgery later, Randall and McCarthy walked in to the East Hartford Fire Department to a receiving line of familiar faces – the first responders who worked together to save his life.
After his brush with death, Randall says he has a new-found appreciation for life. “Life is fragile, and you’ve got to enjoy it and it’s got to be the best that you can make it.”
Reunions like this are rare, Barrera said. “This never happens. Outcomes like this are few and far between, so when it does… it’s a good feeling.”
As for Buchanan and McCarthy, both women believe two angels named Paul were watching over that day.
“I looked at Trish and said your Paul is up there, he made this work,” McCarthy said. “I know they did.”