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A heartfelt thank you

Standing in front of Fire Engine 33 in downtown Ashland Monday, John Lotts was all smiles remembering the day he died. Twice.

Lotts, of Central Point, was in Ashland to run the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon Nov. 5.

He recalls the day as near-perfect for running. “Fairly warm. A good day for a run.”

He also remembers not feeling well. He had heartburn and stomach pain that wouldn’t get better. He says he sat down on the curb. A race coordinator took him to an ambulance, where Jim Thomason and Daniel Caples were standing by on firefighter/paramedic duty.

“I didn’t want to get in the ambulance. I figured it was expensive and I didn’t need it.”

That’s when the men saved his life for the first time.

“If it hadn’t been for him telling me if I didn’t get in the ambulance ... I might not be here today.” It turns out Lotts, 53, was suffering from a heart attack. Thomason used a defibrillator to restart Lotts' heart, and then his heart stopped again in the hospital.

“I literally owe them my life,” Lotts said.

Lotts came to the fire station Monday to give the firefighters a medal.

Lotts recently completed the Hagg Lake mud race in Gaston, a 31-mile race through mud, his first race since his heart attack. He asked for two additional medals to bring back to the firefighters, saying, “They were running that race with me.”

The firefighters wore the medals for a photo opportunity at the fire station, smiling for pictures and saying they are grateful to know Lotts is OK and that he came back to let them know. “This is what keeps us going through hard calls,” says Caples.

“I think it’s very positive. It’s such a good outcome. It’s very motivating to see someone back to where he is,” says Thomason. “He went out of his way to come and thank us. We don’t always know the outcome.”

Reflecting on his near-death experience, Lotts said, “Appreciate what you have and what you can do. Don’t take anything for granted.”

Thomason also has advice based on that November day. “Listen to your body. It knows the answers.”

— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

Central Point resident John Lotts thanks Ashland firefighter/paramedic Jim Thomason for saving his life from a heart attack in November. [PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.]