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Emotional reunion after first responders save man and his deer

A Jefferson County man said thanks with hugs, handshakes and some home cooking.

Most of the time when we see first responders, it's in the middle of an emergency. But Tuesday, a Jefferson County man got a chance to say thanks to the crews who, just last week, helped save his life.

Deer hunting is a tradition in Jim Birch's family.

“Unlike some people, I don’t always go for the big buck. I hunt for the meat,” said Birch.

He’s gotten a deer for six straight seasons. And the payoff is always a treat.

“I usually make deer chili but this time I’m making deer stew.”

But the batch Birch whipped up Tuesday wasn't for him.

Last week, he was hunting near his home in Cedar Hill.

“I actually got the deer up on that ridge over there,” he said, pointing across a valley to a wooded hill. “I put the deer on the back rack of my four-wheeler, took it up the hill and offloaded it into the shed. And that's when the heart attack happened.”

Crews from the Big River Ambulance District and Cedar Hill Fire Protection District rushed to help Birch.

“As they were wiring me up, I jokingly asked if anybody knew how to take care of gutting a deer,” said Birch.

It turns out John Griffith did.

“I've done a few,” the fire district battalion chief said with a smile.

Griffith came in on a vacation day and took care of Birch's deer.

“It's just what we do. People in the fire service are just kind of natural fixers,” said Griffith.

Once Birch got back on his feet, he felt it was time to show his gratitude. So, he took that pot of stew to the firehouse to share with the crew. And got the opportunity to share a special meal with them.

“You guys went above and beyond,” Birch said between handshakes and hugs.

“It was very delicious,” Griffith said of the stew.

Birch’s wife, Maria, called it a small show of thanks to the men and women who do a huge job.

“They saved his life,” she said.

“It kind of pulls on the heart, in a different way than it was being pulled on before,” Birch said with a chuckle.

Birch’s doctors say he's doing well. But, he will have to take six-eight weeks off work while he recovers. That's going to make paying his bills tough and buying Christmas gifts for his grandkids nearly impossible.

Click here to donate to a GoFundMe page supporting the Birch family.

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