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Owner of Lewandoski's saves customer having heart attack

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Posted at 3:18 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 18:39:02-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gary Szotko bought Lewandoski's meat market in 2018 to keep a west side Grand Rapid's tradition going: good polish food.

He kept all the original recipes. He believes if it's not broke, don't fix it.

A retired Deputy Fire Chief with Grand Rapids, it was always on his list to buy an AED for the store. Other expenses, COVID closures, and the thought that customers are usually "in and out" pushed it further down on the list.

Until customer Fred Bivins.

Fred walked into Lewandoski's on November 12, 2021. He was picking up some smoked kielbasa to go with his favorite mac and cheese.

“Fred and I were having a great conversation, getting caught up on people and things,” Szotko said.

Fred made his way for the door, but walked back in. Gary thought they simply weren't finished chatting. He thought wrong.

“That’s when his heart stopped. He went down to the floor,” Szotko said.

Fred was having a heart attack. A faint pulse quickly turned to no pulse. Szotko jumped into action.

“Within 45 seconds, CPR was started. Which the chances of survival…the sooner you can start the better the results. Fred’s a poster child for that,” Szotko said.

Szotko broke Bivins' ribs. Fred is grateful to Gary for the minor injuries. He knows it could have been much worse.

“What I learned in the hospital, is when you do CPR, if you don’t break bones, you don’t save a life,” Bivins said.

Bivins says Szotko saved his life that day. He wouldn't have it any other way.

“I wouldn’t let anyone but a friend save my life,” Bivins said.

Now, Fred is paying it forward: helping Lewandoski's Market pay for an AED. They hope other Grand Rapids businesses follow suit.