WASHINGTON - A Vietnam veteran visiting Washington D.C. for the Fourth of July came face-to-face with death after having a stroke. His family said if it wasn't for some amazing doctors, the EMS team and a complete stranger, he may not have survived.
Joe Frankino is recovering at George Washington University Hospital surrounded by several family members.
“Very fortunate, I'm a lucky guy,” he said from his hospital bed.
The 70-year-old said he is in town from Cleveland visiting family for the holiday. On Thursday, he was working on his computer at his son's home when he started having trouble speaking. Luckily, his family realized what was going on right away and called 911.
His wife credits an amazing response by the emergency responders in Arlington for getting to Frankino quickly and rushing him off to the hospital.
But there was also a stranger that Maureen Frankino said appeared at just the right time to help.
“We were in a congested area with traffic and this just makes me have goosebumps,” she said. “A gentleman stepped off the curb to get in the middle of the intersection to stop the traffic so the ambulance could get through. It was amazing.”
Thanks to that mysterious man, Frankino was able to make it to the hospital in time where two doctors removed a blockage from his neck and brain.
Frankino said this was his third time in his life he has come close to death. A few years ago, he survived cancer. And back in 1967 during the Vietnam War, he was aboard the USS Forrestal. He was part of the crew that helped put out a huge fire on that ship that killed 143 men.
His doctors at George Washington University Hospital said it is an honor to have helped him spend another July 4th with his family.
“It's incredibly symbolic that on this day, the day that we are recognizing our vets and we are recognizing our country's independence, to be able to have a great outcome for someone who has done so much for this country and his children who have been involved in the armed forces, to do so much for his country, to actually do something for them in return is incredibly meaningful,” said Dr. Dimitri Sigounas.
“Live every day like it's your last day and enjoy it,” Frankino said. “Live every day like it’s your last day because it could be. That's what I want to do.”
Frankino is expected to be released from the hospital on Saturday just two days after his stroke.
His family said they would love to find the stranger that helped clear traffic for the ambulance so they can thank him as well.