WENATCHEE — If it weren’t for a volunteer, ranger and aide all being in Squilchuck State Park at the same time, Anthony Fiano might not be retelling his story.
Like many Wenatchee residents, Fiano had spent the summer hiking without incident. But on the afternoon of Aug. 10, while on Squilchuck’s Upper Wheeler Reservoir trail, he started feeling tired and lightheaded.
Luckily he was with his wife, Abby. Both are nurses.
“I asked him, ‘What are you feeling? What’s going on?’” Abby said. “I had no idea anything was wrong until that moment. He was just like, ‘You’ve got to go get help. I’m really dizzy.’ ... His pulse was so weak, I could hardly feel his pulse in his radial artery. He said he was feeling something in his chest, so I knew it was real.”
Fiano, 47, was having a heart attack. His wife helped him lie down and then ran back down the trail to get help.
She spotted park volunteer Eric Musgrove at a campsite, got his attention, and the two of them drove in his truck as far as they could before continuing on foot.
“I couldn’t sit up,” Anthony Fiano said. “I couldn’t do anything. My right coronary artery was completely blocked off. I stood up enough for him to get me over his shoulder. ... He carried me for a good hundred yards by himself, down a really uneven trail. It’s more of a gully than a trail; it’s very rocky.”
At one point he asked Musgrove to put him down and go get park ranger Jose Velazquez, who Musgrove knew was in the area.
Velazquez was showing new park aide Edgar Arroyo around Squilchuck. They went up to where Fiano was, helped Musgrove carry him down to Velazquez’s truck and then drove him to the lodge area to wait for medics.
“All we did was pretty much just talking to him, making sure he was OK and consoling him,” said Arroyo, who started the job a few weeks ago.
He said he and Velazquez were supposed to be at Squilchuck the day before but plans changed.
“Timing, you know. Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I’m glad everything’s OK now.”
Chelan County Fire District 1 and Lifeline Ambulance were dispatched shortly after 2 p.m., according to the call log. Fiano was taken to Central Washington Hospital, where he stayed for a few days.
Fiano said he’d never had a heart attack before and didn’t realize he had a problem until this hike. They had gone about a mile and half before his symptoms started, he said.
“Your coronary arteries, they can get to a point where someone’s like 90% to 95% occluded before anything happens and you notice it,” he said. “It was incredibly scary. The chest pain was crazy.”
Velazquez said Musgrove, who declined an interview, deserves much of the credit because of running up and down the trail multiple times to help Fiano and to get him and Arroyo. Musgrove’s quick thinking also led him to block Velazquez’s truck in with his own so he wouldn’t leave.
“Eric pretty much single-handedly saved that guy’s life,” Velazquez said.
Squilchuck has no full-time park ranger.
“You never know what the alternative circumstances would have been had I not decided to take Edgar that day and Eric happened to be working that day in that location,” Velazquez said. “I don’t feel like I did anything that day other than just be at the right place, right time, and just doing my job.”
But Fiano said without all three men, whom he didn’t know, he wouldn’t have made it. Now he gets to be there for Abby, who is pregnant.
“I wish it hadn’t happened to me, but it couldn’t have gone any better for me than it did,” he said. “A lot of that is because of the wonderful character of the people that were involved as well as the organization that exists between first responders and the hospital. ... Everybody’s been amazing, but those three, I feel so blessed to have them there. It’s really made me feel more positive about everything, having a second chance.”