It happened in May of 2021. Retired Houston Fire Chief William "Tom” Frankum has just completed a sail from Texas to Key West. His crew was settled into a hotel, and Frankum returned to the boat where, suddenly, exhaustion overcame him, and he suffered a devastating fall into the water.
Staffers from the Fury kayaked to the injured man while Key West Fire and Rescue responded to the call. Frankum had severely injured his throat to the point he was unable to breathe, and the EMS crew was unable to intubate him. On the spot, paramedic Riely Barber performed an emergency surgery, cutting open his windpipe in a difficult procedure called a tracheostomy. Fire Chief Alan Averette noted that the procedure is rare. This was the only one that's been required in his memory.
Frankum was rushed to a waiting helicopter and flown to the Ryder Trauma Center, where he spent the next two months in the ICU.
Frankum and his wife Bonnie were in Key West this week with the specific mission to thank the crew that saved his life. The couple was greeted by Rescue Lt. Kyle Malone, firefighter-paramedics Todd Jones, Reily Barber, Andy Harris, and Captain Jason Bogoeff – the entire crew that worked that evening to keep Frankum alive.
The EMS crews deal with life and death-issues on a daily basis. But, they noted during the reunion, it’s rare and rewarding to meet and talk with a patient after they’ve healed.
Noted one of the heroes, they had no inkling that Frankum was a retired firefighter. Learning after the fact that he was a brother made it special, he said.
Bonnie Frankum said they've been planning this trip of gratitude for a while. They had also visited Ryder and were able to thank the surgeon who continued the lifesaving work begun by Key West Fire and Rescue.
In the photo from L to R: Rescue Lt. Kyle Malone, Firefighter/Paramedic Todd Jones, Firefighter/Paramedic Riely Barber and his son Ryder, Tom Frankum, Capt. Jason Bogoeff, and Firefighter/Paramedic Andy Harris.