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Firehouse CEO suffers a massive heart attack 5,000 feet atop Grandfather Mountain. First responders hiked 5 miles to save his life

"I will never be so joyful as when I saw those first responders coming up this trail," Fox exclaimed. "It was the calvary. And I knew I was in good hands."

LINVILLE, N.C. — Firehouse Subs CEO Don Fox was vacationing in Linville, North Carolina when he suffered the unthinkable: A heart attack at 5,000 feet atop Grandfather Mountain.

Fox said he was hiking with his wife when massive chest pains stopped him dead in his tracks. 

"We were at about the mile mark and all of a sudden started getting massive chest pains, I couldn't move," Fox remembered. 

Thankfully, Fox's wife was able to call 911. But for the next 40 minutes, he was lying on the ground suffering from a debilitating heart attack. 

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Credit: Firehouse sub

"The rescue team busted their tail to get up there," Fox said.

That rescue team, which consisted of the Linville Volunteer Fire Department and the Linville-Central Rescue Squad, hiked more than 5 miles to get to Fox on top of the mountain 

"It was early," firefighter Garrett Stonesifer remembered about that day. "We got there fairly quickly. 

Before the rescue team could reach Fox, he said he considered the possibility that he would never make it down alive. 

"I almost just reconciled myself to it that it was ending there," Fox said fighting back tears. "And I think back on it and just a ton of emotions come back." 

The joy that Fox felt when he saw the men and women coming toward him on that mountain is one he will never forget.  

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"I will never be so joyful as when I saw those first responders coming up this trail," Fox exclaimed. "It was the cavalry. And I knew I was in good hands."

Fox said, fortunately, his rescue team had the necessary equipment they needed to safely rescue him from the mountain. 

"They had the tools that they needed, they had the people that they need," Fox said. "Not everybody is so fortunate."

Credit: Firehouse subs

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And that's why Fox, with his Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, presented the Linville Volunteer Fire Department with a $49,585 grant for that necessary lifesaving equipment. 

Fox made the presentation during a reunion with the very same first responders who saved his life almost one year ago. 

The Linville Fire Department said they are incredibly grateful for the donation and that while they hope never to use the machines, they will be crucial in the rescue process. 

"That piece of equipment will be a game changer for us," Stonesifer exclaimed. "God forbid something like that happened for real, in real life." 

The equipment Stonesifer is describing is the Zoll X Series Monitor/Defibrillator and AutoPulse Resuscitation System. The fire department was able to purchase those two items thanks to the grant from Fox and Firehouse Subs. 

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This critical, lifesaving equipment will enable firefighters to provide advanced life support and respond to cardiac emergencies and deliver high-quality, automated CPR on the go.

Fox said he's 100% healthy now, but he's forever grateful for his "angels" who rescued him that day.

Posted by Linville Volunteer Fire Department on Thursday, July 28, 2022

"It's life-changing," Fox said about his rescue. "But then to see the people that day because I'll never forget their faces. They've forever changed your life by being there." 

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He also said this experience has not stopped him from vacationing in the mountains with his wife. He just might take it a little easier next time on the hikes. 

"Back hiking," Fox said. "I don't know if we'll do the same trail this time but we're going to be hiking the area. Love the area." 

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Contact Meilin at mtompkins@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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