TOWN OF TONAWANDA, NY – June 16, 2014 will forever be a milestone day in the life of Tonawanda Police Officer Kevin Zuchlewski.
That is because that day, was almost the last day of his life.
At approximately 2:45 that Monday afternoon, Zuchlewski, 44, a 14-year veteran of the police force, had just finished exercising in the gym located in the police headquarters building on Sheridan Drive.
While in the locker room, he experienced sudden cardiac arrest.
Worse, Zuchlewski fell unconscious near his locker, on the far end of the locker room and obscured from view from the rest of the room.
Fortunately, his near lifeless body was discovered in time by Officer Ryan Taber, who, despite being on the other side of the large room and listening to music, was still able to pick up the faint, but distinct sound of labored breathing, and whereupon investigating, found his fellow officer.
Recognizing the peril facing Zuchlewski, Taber called for assistance.
Tonawanda Police Captain Frank McNamara and Detective Thomas Oswald helped Taber take immediate actions to save Zuchlewski's life.
Upon finding no pulse, Taber and McNamara began CPR, while Oswald sought out an automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable electronic device which, when used properly, applies electrical therapy which can allow the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm.
"At one point,we actually saw the life drain from him," recalled Taber. "His body went very tense, then we we actually saw him relax and his head went back and that was it. That was the point where we started doing (chest) compressions," Taber told WGRZ-TV.
It was enough to sustain Zuchlewski's life until paramedics arrived to take over.
Zuchlewski, who has a wife and two children, later underwent quintuple bypass surgery, and is currently progressing in his recovery.
With a new lease on life, Zuchlewski wanted to have the officers who saved him publicly recognized.
On Thursday afternoon, the department held an assembly to do just that, where Zuchlewski was granted another wish, which was to publicly thank his rescuers.
"My family and I are eternally grateful for the decisive action which ultimately saved my life," an emotional Zuchlewski told a packed meeting room."And when you stand up here, you realize that God has a plan for you...and I'm just glad that my brothers that I work with day to day are a part of that plan," he said.
Click on the video player above to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Scott may. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2