Three-and-a-half weeks after a serious motorcycle crash, retired Cleveland EMS Captain Tony Sessin came home from the hospital Friday afternoon. Although he lost a leg from the knee down, Sessin was remarkably positive and resolute in his mission to thank everyone who helped him, including the off-duty Cleveland firefighter who saved his life.
On July 3rd, Sessin, who served on Cleveland EMS from 1977 until 2007, was on his motorcycle when he was struck by another driver on Bagley Road in Berea; Sessin was not at fault. The impact of the crash sent Sessin over the windshield on his motorcycle. He suffered road rash and lacerations on his head, face and arms.
Those injuries, however, paled in comparison to the catastrophic injuries to one of his legs. The bones below the knee shattered line fine china dropped off a balcony. The arteries in Sessin’s leg were severed and he lost a large amount of blood.
He didn’t have much time.
That was, until, off-duty Cleveland firefighter Alex Kundrat, who just happened to be in the area, used his training and experience to essentially save Sessin’s life. Kundrat fashioned a tourniquet using his belt, slowing the loss of blood dramatically. The spur-of-the-moment tourniquet held and bought paramedics enough time to get Sessin into surgery.
Sessin spent 24 days at the hospital. He underwent surgery again and again. Amputating the leg below the knee, however, was the only logical solution. Even after the procedure, there was a time when he spiked a fever of 105.4, raising fears that he was septic.
Sessin’s wife and his family never left him.
“I just can’t describe how tough she is. She is my rock,” Sessin said, holding back tears. “Without her, I don’t know where we’d be.”
Perhaps it was fitting it was his wife, Jenny, that brought him home from the hospital. With her husband in the front seat, propped up by pillows, Jenny Sessin pulled into the driveway of their North Olmsted home. Jovially, she let out a quick succession of honks.
Tony was finally home.
“Because of the support of my family and all my friends, that’s what has made this possible,” Sessin said. “If they weren’t there, God knows where I’d be. I thank Him for every day because I just as easily could have been killed instead of lost a leg.”
Sessin’s life was undoubtedly changed that muggy morning in early July. There will be more physical therapy appointments and at least one additional surgery to clean up his amputated leg. After those wounds heal, Sessin will be fitted for a prosthetic leg.
He has his life, however. And there’s no greater gift.
“I thank God for being here for giving me an angel in Alex Kundrat. If he wasn’t there, I might not be,” Sessin said. “God works in mysterious ways. But thank God He gave me Alex.”
Immediately following the crash, there was no clear indication of who it was that placed the tourniquet around Sessin’s leg. The crash report didn’t yield the good Samaritan’s identity nor did he identify himself. The soft-spoken and mild-mannered Kundrat was in the area at the time of the crash.
Kundrat, who also runs a tree service business in his free time, is as humble as they come. He’s never one to seek the spotlight. That morning it found him.
“There were two or three people that were getting out of their cars. Nobody seemed to want to be the first one up there,” Kundrat said. “Anybody would have stopped and done what they could I think, but I’ve had some practice at it.”
Pulling off a special belt that he wears while trimming trees, Kundrat cinched it around Sessin’s leg, buying first responders just enough time to rush Sessin to Metro Hospital for emergency surgery. Kundrat then retreated into anonymity, never once thinking that what he had just done was heroic.
“Anybody would have done what they could,” Kundrat said, dismissing the notion.
Sessin begs to differ but also recognizes Kundrat’s humility.
“[Kundrat] did what he knew he should do. That’s what all first responders do. That’s who we are. That’s what we’re made of,” Sessin said. “When God said He left angels, I’ve seen a bunch of them.”
Three days after the crash, Jenny Sessin, her two sons, and one of her grandsons surprised Kundrat inside the engine bay of Cleveland Fire Station 17. They were able to identify Kundrat as the good Samaritan thanks to mutual friends who are in the fire service.
“Thank you,” Jenny Sessin told Kundrat as tears streamed down her face. “My husband will come because he will walk out of the hospital and he will come and thank you.”
Tony Sessin still plans on living up to that promise.
A bike night fundraiser is scheduled for Sept 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. at PJ McIntyre's Irish Pub in Cleveland. More information can be found here.