There was a reunion at the Central Fire Station Tuesday that never would have happened if not for the heroic action of Chelsea Fire Capt. Michael Thompson on Dec. 31.
With tears flowing, Tony Ippolito and his wife of 60 years, Jean Ippolito, both thanked Thompson for saving Mr. Ippolito’s life on New Year’s Eve at the Doubletree By Hilton Hotel in Danvers. It was the first time Mr. Ippolito and Thomson had seen each other since the incredible events that unfolded that fateful night.
“There’s not enough words to say thank you,” said an emotional Ippolito. “I could go through the entire dictionary – the biggest word is thank you, you saved my life, Mike, it’s that simple, there’s no other way to say it.”
Mrs. Ippolito said to Thompson seated across the table as Fire Chief Len Albanese took in the scene, “You gave me back my husband. After all these years, what would I do without him after 60 years [of marriage].”
Thompson and his wife, Claire, were celebrating New Year’s at a party with hundreds of guests in the hotel ballroom when Mr. Ippolito collapsed to the floor, hitting his head. The 80-year-old Tewksbury resident’s heart had stopped beating.
With a large crowd congregating and the music from the band having stopped, Thompson rushed to the scene and began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to Ippolito.
Thompson repeatedly and firmly applied pressure to the middle of Ippolito’s chest. The former football star at Chelsea High used considerable force in the life-or-death situation.
“I just kept pounding on his chest,” said Thompson.
“He [Thompson] didn’t break any ribs,” said Mrs. Ippolito with a smile.
Ulitmately, with the use of an AED defibrillator and assistance from other emergency personnel, Mr. Ippolito was revived. He was transported to Beverly Hospital for further treatment.
Jean Ippolito said if not for Thompson’s swift and expert actions, her husband would have succumbed.
“Any other place in that hotel, walking in the hallway, the lobby, in your hotel room – my husband would have been in big trouble,” said Mrs. Ippolito. “But you [Mike] were in the right place to save him. My husband is a lucky man. He takes up a lot of space and God’s not ready for him.”
During a ceremony held in front of his professional colleagues in the Fire Department, Chief Albanese presented an official letter of commendation to Thompson.
“He is the salt of the earth,” said Albanese. “I have a letter of commendation here for Mike Thompson. If not for his actions [on Dec. 31] this victim would have most not likely have survived. For acting without hesitation while off duty in the proud tradition of the Chelsea Fire Department which led to the saving of a life, Captain Michael Thompson is hereby awarded this letter of commendation in recognition of his efforts, with the gratitude of the department and the City of Chelsea.”
Said Mr. Ippolito to the Chelsea firefighters, “I’m lucky I’m alive. If it wasn’t for this guy, I wouldn’t be here today. I have to tell everyone of you – you’re a tribute to the United States and the world for everything that you guys do above and beyond the call of duty. You guys work so hard and many times you don’t get credit for what you do. All I can say is thank every one of you and thank you, Mike, for saving my life.”
Mr. Ippolito embraced Thompson, no doubt understanding that fate and destiny and the heroic presence and expertise of the Chelsea fire captain in the ultimate emergency situation had given him the gift of more years to enjoy life with his wife, Jean, their family and friends.