On a steamy July day in Bayonet Point, Florida, Gene Work and his brother-in-law, Mark Rouco, were resodding Gene’s yard. It had grown brown and patchy in the heat, and the homeowners’ association had threatened to impose a hefty fine if the situation wasn’t remedied. The new sod was sitting in the driveway on four pallets, but the job was slow going. Gene, then 40, wasn’t feeling right. He went inside to take a break and collapsed on the couch, clutching his chest. His wife, Melissa Work, called 911 quickly. Find out the reason a 9/11 first responder has decided to tell his story 18 years later.
Even though he was staring down death, Gene had one thing on his mind: that lawn. If the sod wasn’t put down that day, it would die. “While he was having his heart attack, literally in and out of consciousness, he kept begging me to have it put down because he didn’t want it to go to waste,” Melissa wrote in a Facebook post.
Soon Pasco County Fire Rescue arrived and took Gene and Melissa to the hospital, leaving Rouco behind to tackle the yard. Within an hour, he had managed to remove the old grass. He was about to lay the new sod, which he feared would take him well into the night, when two emergency vehicles appeared. Seven men—the same ones who had treated his brother-in-law—got out. Gene had told them how badly he’d wanted to get the sod down, so they had returned to help. The job was done in under two hours.
Meanwhile, Gene had surgery to insert stents in his heart, alleviating a potentially deadly blockage. He’s home now, fully recovered—and enjoying his beautiful lawn.
The Works are still amazed that those EMTs went above and beyond their job description. “These men,” Melissa told tampabay.com, “saved Gene’s life, and then came back to save his grass. That’s just so awesome.” Read on for more inspiring true stories about the kindness of strangers.