In August of 2017, Jonathan wrote about his very first ride-along on an ambulance as a brand new EMT for his incoming freshman essay at the University of Denver. Written just a month before he died, he wrote about his experience when they responded to a call of a man overdosing on heroin.
“The deepest impact ever left on me was by a person I had never even talked to. We didn’t know each other at all and I had never even seen him before in my life. I never got to find out his name and he wasn’t even aware of my presence or anyone else’s for that matter. However, we both had one thing in common that made an instant connection between us. We both shared the disease of addiction, with the only difference being he was still in active addiction and I was one year sober.
I was on my first ride-along shift as an EMT when we got a call of a man down in the bathroom of a McDonald’s. When we arrived we discovered a man in cardiac arrest from a heroin overdose. As we entered the scene I started doing compressions on the patient while more paramedics arrived setting up all their drugs and getting their treatments ready. We worked on the patient for ten minutes before loading him into the back of an ambulance. By this point he had been intubated and had multiple IVs in him.
While rushing to the hospital we had four EMTs in the back working hard and giving their all to this man so he could live past this day. It took multiple people all with years of experience and the right knowledge just to get this man to the hospital in a semi-stable condition, still we were doubtful he would make it alive to the ER. Not much will affect me in such a strong way but watching this all unfold as a former addict/alcoholic myself made me view life in a whole new light. This whole situation made me see just how precious and delicate life is.
Whoever the man who overdosed was had managed to change my life, I could see myself in him barely clinging to life. I found myself wondering if he had any family or loved ones who would miss him if he were gone and how devastated their lives would be if he did not make it. This made me think upon my own experiences the few times I almost overdosed and how my own family would be affected and how their lives would be changed forever.
I used to just stay sober because I saw it as something necessary I must do to just live life normally but now I see that I must take advantage of being sober in life because so few addicts get the chance to be sober and live life to its fullest potential. I now live my life with a new-found purpose wanting to help those who cannot help themselves and I owe all this to the man who overdosed in the McDonald’s bathroom.”
Jonathan Jacob Winnefeld
Incoming Freshman Essay, University of Denver
Jonathan Winnefeld's older brother James Winnefeld III, “LJ” shares Jonathan's story.