The call to LifeStar Ambulance came about 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2015, and the emergency sounded like a bad one.
A house framer working at a new subdivision in Tulare had fallen off the roof; witnesses said he landed head first. He wasn’t moving.
Paramedic Chris Kinzer, 41, quickly diagnosed the problem: the patient, Jose Martinez, had fractured his spine at the neck, one of the worst spinal cord injuries and commonly resulting in permanent paralysis.
With help from an EMT, Kinzer strapped a backboard onto the 32-year-old patient, inserted a breathing tube into his throat and rushed him to the hospital.
What became of the patient after that remained unknown to Kinzer – until 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The patient’s grateful wife, Emily Carpenter-Martinez, 23, formerly of Woodlake and now living in Porterville, walked into the ambulance company headquarters and threw her arms around Kinzer.
Thank you for saving my husband’s life. You did an amazing job.
“Thank you for saving my husband’s life,” she said, holding back tears. “You did an amazing job.”
Kinzer said he is married with children ages 13 and 10 and remembers wondering if the man he helped also had a wife and children.
Carpenter-Martinez said there are three children in her family, ages 13, 12 and 10.
“If it wasn’t for what you did, they wouldn’t have a dad, and I wouldn’t have a husband,” she said. “I can’t thank you enough.”
Carpenter-Martinez said she knew finding Kinzer was something she had to do.
She said her husband is making progress. He is living in a skilled nursing facility in Fresno while he recuperates.
“He is still able to tell me he loves me and tell my children he loves them,” she said.
LifeStar Ambulance vice president Jackie Paull said it’s thrilling for her that a family member of someone helped a year ago would track down one of her company’s employees to express gratitude.
“They almost never get recognition,” Paull said.
Kinzer said the public recognizes police officers and firefighters as first responders, but not emergency medical personnel like him and his colleagues.
“They think we’re ambulance drivers,” he said. “The most awesome thing for us as paramedics is to know we helped.”