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Heroes Among Us

The guys

The last thing Maintenance Technician Neal Favreau remembers about Monday, August 18 is that he was sitting in one of the golf carts operated by the property management staff at Lynnhaven Landing Apartments in Virginia Beach and chatting with his colleague, Curtis Murphy. After that, Favreau can not recollect a thing.

What Favreau can’t recall are events that his fellow maintenance team members are able describe in vivid detail.

According to Murphy (also a Maintenance Technician), he and Favreau were at the property’s maintenance shop when Favreau made a comment about his chest hurting. The two then continued about their business until Favreau suddenly stated he was about to pass out. “And then Neal just fell over, unconscious, and hit his head,” Murphy said.

“I was completely shaken and discombobulated. There was not another soul around...just the birds chirping.” Murphy immediately dialed 9-1-1, only to be put on hold! As he was waiting for a 9-1-1 responder to come on the line, Murphy turned Favreau over and waited for instructions. Finally, a responder took the call and told Murphy he would need to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on his friend and coworker.

At that time, Maintenance Supervisor Tom Benson and Oliver Williams, a maintenance technician with Labor Ready, arrived on the frightening scene. As intructed, Benson and Murphy began performing chest compressions on Neal until the 9-1-1 responder indicated they would need to add mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to their life-saving techniques.

“There was barely a moment’s hesitation. We knew what we had to do. We knew it was a matter of life or death,” remarked Benson, who has previously helped save the life of a baby struggling with heat exhaustion and a man who was hit by a tree.

It was then that Benson heard sirens in the distance and ran off to flag the emergency vehicles down. Williams, who had received CPR training while in the military but had never before put it to use, stepped in to continue the exhausting chest compressions, keeping up the process for 20 minutes until the emergency crew arrived.

Regional Property Manager Nona Hipp happened to arrive at Lynnhaven Landing just as the events were unfolding. “We were all so upset and scared,” she said. “...but our guys, especially Oliver, appeared to be so skilled and confident while performing CPR that I thought he was with the emergency crew when I first him them from a distance. I was so thankful they were there to help.”

Once there, the emergency team determined that Favreau had suffered a heart attack and delivered electric shocks to his heart using a defibrillator. They then quickly loaded him into the ambulance and drove away...without their sirens on.

“When I realized that the sirens were not going, I thought Neal had passed on and I just lost it,” explained Murphy. We’re like family here and we all became really emotional as we absorbed what was happening.”

A penny found on the floor of the emergency room entrance gave Hipp hope, however, that Favreau would pull through. “I knew it was a lucky penny and it was a sign that today would not be Neal’s day to pass.”

After suffering a second cardiac arrest and several more electric shocks at the hospital, Favreau surprised his workmates and medical workers and when he finally stabilized later that day. Doctors were able to successfully insert a stint in his heart, and plan to add a second one in the near future.

“Neal’s a fighter,” explained Williams. “He is going to be with us for a while. Thank God for watching over him and bringing him back...twice.”

Murphy shared that reflecting on the events of August 18 is still painful. “I didn’t want Neal to go on my watch. I still don’t like thinking about it. Right after it happened, I was so shaken up that I couldn’t eat or sleep.”

Added Williams, “We’re just so glad he’s alive and joking. Neal’s laugh is unforgettable.”

Favreau, who has five children and “a lot of grandchildren,” said, “I should be up and running again soon. I may be slower than I used to be, but I’m here. I really do appreciate what these guys did. The facts speak for themselves. They wanted me alive. We’re a family and were stronger and closer than ever now.”