Fred Kramer is a paramedic for Seventh Ward Ambulance in Johnstown. In this more than 25 years as a first responder, Kramer has seen more than his share of car crashes, shootings and medical emergencies.
On Nov. 22, Kramer and his colleagues faced something both rare and unforeseen. They were attacked by a man who had taken methamphetamine and heroin. The incident highlights the growing challenge that police, fire and EMS face when dealing with drug users.
The odyssey began when city police and Seventh Ward EMS were called to a parking lot in the 500 block of Vine Street for an unconscious person.
There, they found John Carl Petrousky, 32, unconscious behind the wheel of a pink taxi cab.
"His chin was on his chest and he was not breathing," Kramer said during a recent interview at the ambulance service's Cedar Street station.
"He had a pulse but it was real slow," Kramer said. Petrousky was on his way to "cashing out," he said.
Kramer said he gave Petrousky two milligrams of Narcan in his nose and used a bag valve mask to help him breathe.
Once in the ambulance, Kramer said he started an IV to give Petrousky additional drugs.
Kramer never got the chance.
"He sprung up and stared at me," Kramer said. "I've never seen more rage in anybody's face.
"The next thing I know his arms are around my throat," he said.
A police officer deployed a Taser but Petrousky was unaffected. He fought with three EMS workers and the officer.
"He completely ripped out the IV line. There was blood all over the place," Kramer said. "This guy was in a psychotic state and was completely out of control."
Petrousky allegedly struck the officer and EMS workers multiple times, ripped out several EKG leads from the heart monitor and tried to bite a DART emergency medical technician, according to a criminal compliant.
The battle inside the ambulance went on for 10 to 15 minutes, before Petrousky became calm.
He was taken to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center where he admitted to snorting methamphetamine and injecting heroin, but he wasn't sure when.
Petrousky faces four counts each of aggravated assault, simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment. He also was charged with five counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of resisting arrest.
He is awaiting trial.
Drug users produce methamphetamine from makeshift mobile labs. But heroin and fentanyl continue to plague Cambria County, Chief County Detective Kristy Freoni said on Saturday.
This year, the county Drug Task Force has seized more grams of heroin than last year and fewer grams of methamphetamine, she said.
Kramer, who suffered no serious injuries, said attacks on first responders are uncommon.
"Direct attacks on EMS are rare, but we're starting to see that," he said. "Since the heroin epidemic started, I have seen more violence."
EMS workers are offered self defense courses through the Southern Alleghenies EMS Council in Altoona. Seventh Ward EMS personnel also wear bulletproof vests.
"I never thought that one day I would have to put on a bulletproof vest to do my Job," Kramer said.