Paramedics save 91-year-old New Jersey man who promised dinner date to his wife

Jim Dolan Image
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Paramedics save 91-year-old man who promised dinner date to his wife
Jim Dolan reports from Denville.

DENVILLE, New Jersey (WABC) -- A 91-year-old man celebrated his birthday at his favorite restaurant in New Jersey with his family by his side thanks to three paramedics who saved his life.

Joseph Leifkin woke up bathed in sweat.

"I said to my wife, 'I think I'm in trouble,'" Joseph said.

Marjorie called 911, and the paramedics thought he was in trouble too.

"I didn't even have the chance to introduce myself and he said 'Don't let me die, don't let me die,'" said Kevin Duffy, St. Clare's Paramedic.

"I said, 'I love my wife so much and she loves me. I can't leave her,'" Joseph said.

But he knew it was bad.

"I thought I was ready to check out, I really did," Joseph said.

"He did reach out and say, 'I'm not ready, I don't want to go, the only thing I want to do is go to Ruth Chris with my wife and have a dinner on my birthday," said Sarah Crelin, St. Clare's Paramedic.

And then he died, literally. Joseph's heart stopped beating in the ambulance and he stopped breathing and for 10 eternal minutes on the way to St. Clare's.

The medics did chest compressions and forced air into his lungs until Joseph, who wasn't ready to go anyway, came back.

"Are those my saviors? God I love you! I love you so much, you made me have another life," Joseph said.

The whole group reunited Wednesday night, at St. Clare's Hospital.

"Thanks to you, I'm still here. If it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't be here," Joseph said.

"Just knowing they got another holiday together. You know, a lot of us would love to have our dads back for a holiday, so we are glad his family has him," said Corrine Flammer, St. Clare's Paramedic.

Just before he died, he told the paramedics that he just couldn't die because he still had a date scheduled with his wife for his 91st birthday. So, Wednesday night, on his 91st birthday, Joseph, his wife, and other members of his family walked into Ruth Chris Steak House and celebrated his birthday and all of the days they have left thanks to those three paramedics.

"I'm not ready to go, I have more to do," Joseph said.