HUDSON, FL – This is a story of heroes and villains.
First, the heroes. They’re the members of the Pasco County Fire Rescue Station here in Hudson, a town of 13,000 people on the west coast of Florida north of St. Petersburg.
At first, it sounded like a routine medical emergency call. Forty-year-old Gene Work was in his yard with his wife Melissa Ann laying sod when he doubled over with chest pain. Melissa Ann figured—correctly—that her husband was having a heart attack and she immediately called 911.
Her prompt action was credited with saving his life. “His whole right coronary artery was completely clogged,” she said. “They said if I had waited a few more minutes to call, he would have died.”
The emergency crew got Gene to the hospital in time for doctors to save him. And, ordinarily, that good news would be the end of the story.
But there’s more.
The reason Gene and Melissa Ann were in their yard laying sod in the middle of a hot summer day was because (enter the villain) their homeowners association had them under the gun. Get the grass down or we’ll fine you, they’d been warned.
“It’s been my husband’s biggest stress as our HOA date to fine us a huge amount was getting closer,” Melissa Ann said.
“While he was having his heart attack, literally in and out of consciousness, he kept begging me to figure out the sod and have it put down because he didn’t want it to go to waste and die,” she told The Patch. “It’s ALL he kept asking about literally during a massive heart attack. I calmed him and kept saying, ‘Jesus will help us. It’s OK. Jesus will figure this out, babe.'”
Melissa Ann’s brother-in-law, Mark Rouco of Pinellas Park, who had been helping, stayed behind to finish the work.
“He was planning on staying there by himself until midnight to get it finished,” Melissa Ann said. “As he was laying it, he heard huge trucks driving back down the road. He turned around and saw the fire truck and ambulance had come back. He was confused and thought they were coming to check on him. Before he knows it, seven firefighters and EMTs jumped out, put on gloves and said they came back because they knew Gene was in serious trouble and they wanted to lay the new sod so it didn’t die. They knew he wouldn’t be able to do any work for weeks so they came back.
“They saved his life, dropped him off and then cared enough to save our grass,” she said in a Facebook post that’s now gone viral.
“They didn’t know our HOA was going to fine us,” she said. “They didn’t know that this guy’s wife (me) is about to fight for my own life during my bone marrow transplant next month. They didn’t know that my husband pawned his favorite gun to pay for the sod that he thought was going to die. They didn’t know all we have been through as a little family. They simply saw someone in need, and did this for us. This wasn’t in their job description. We have no words.”
It’s all in a day’s work, said Pasco County firefighter Boyd Marshal.
“We went back to the fire station and started talking about it and agreed it won’t take us that long to lay the rest of the sod,” said Marshal. “We’ll just knock it out real quick.”
That’s what heroes in stories like this do.
As for villains, let us ponder this question: Had the firefighters not returned, do you imagine their HOA would have forgiven the fine?
STRANGE FACT: In Florida, HOA’s can foreclose on a house for not paying assessments – like fines for laying sod too late.