Man is reunited with heroes who saved him
When 62-year-old Norman Farrugia went cycling with his friends one Sunday morning in July, his heart stopped beating as he was cycling along Ħal Far road.
He fell to the side of the road without a pulse and lay there, at death’s door.
But two soldiers he now calls his “guardian angels” happened to be passing by and put into practice what they had learnt during training – and saved his life.
Two months later, Mr Farrugia met up with Sergeant Emanuel Chircop and Lance Bombardier Matthew Debattista.
His eyes welling up with emotion, he told them that he and his family will remain forever indebted to them for saving his life.
Just as emotional, the two soldiers, stationed with the 1st Regiment B Company, humbly replied that all they did was react to a situation they had experienced only in training.
Recalling what happened on the day, Sgt Chircop explained they started work at 6am on July 29 and went out on patrol. As they were driving back to the barracks, they saw a woman waving frantically and as they approached she told them a cyclist had fallen to the side of the road. They positioned their AFM Land Rover in such a way as to keep themselves and the patient safe from oncoming traffic and began to assess the situation.
“He had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. The strap of his helmet was choking him so we loosened it. My colleague cleared his air vent and began CPR. Mr Farrugia responded immediately to the first few puffs and began to cough. That is when I knew we had brought him back to life,” he said with a proud smile.
Lance Bombardier Debattista, the more timid of the pair, blushed when Mr Farrugia repeatedly thanked them for saving his life. He admits he froze for a moment when he saw him lying on the ground with the bicycle on top of him.
“I got a vision of my father in-law who had passed away some time ago and was in the exact same position. But I quickly composed myself to save his life. Thankfully, an ambulance was close by shadowing a group of cyclists from Life Cycle who were training. We handed over to the paramedics but by that time Mr Farrugia, although dizzy, was speaking to us,” he said.
The soldiers took Mr Farrugia’s bicycle back to the barracks where they held onto it until he picked it up after being discharged from hospital.
Their commanding officer, Captain Edric Zahra, is proud of two of his staff who put into practice the training they had received and showed excellent teamwork to protect each other from danger.
He said 65 per cent of the B Company was fully trained in First Aid, with the rest to be trained by the end of the year. The platoon’s mission is mainly providing security in prime locations.
Mr Farrugia and his friends have been going cycling every Sunday for the past 35 years. They meet in Birkirkara and then decide whether to go north or south.
In 2000, Mr Farrugia was diagnosed with diabetes and became something of a health freak, 20 years after quitting smoking.
In 2004, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He has been cycling but under strict instructions of his heart surgeon.
Married with three children and a grandfather of two, he is not disheartened by his near-death experience, of which he remembers very little, and would not give up cycling for anything in the world.
He is waiting for a small device which will keep him informed about his heart rate and he, in turn, will ensure he does not cross the line again.