BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Sunday, Jan. 2 was set to be a perfect day for Alexander MacMillen. The Rochester area native traveled to Orchard Park with his son, Christopher, and grandson, Michael, to cheer on the Buffalo Bills as they clinched their playoff berth over the Atlanta Falcons. Little did he know, that day would change his life.

“I was down there cheering for the team, yelling ‘Defense!’ I had to go to the restroom and I climbed up and that was it,” MacMillen said. “All I can remember was going into the men’s room and being short of breath, and I said, ‘I’m gonna go over and stand over here and catch my breath. The next thing I know, I’m in an emergency vehicle and that’s when I came to enough to see the lights up above and know I was in trouble.”

What MacMillen experienced was a cardiac arrest — when the heart suddenly stops beating. Now, almost two months later, MacMillen is reunited with the team off the field that saved his life — including Robert Bradley Richardson, the good samaritan and retired marine who jumped in and started doing CPR on MacMillen before emergency crews got to him.

“For me, I was just at the right place at the right time to start something,” Richardson said. “It’s a Bills game. We all need to go to the restroom once in a while, right? So we’re on our way out in a conga line, trying to get out of this narrow space as it funnels out through the door, and I happened to be looking at my phone, trying to see the score and what’s going on, and I see a young gentleman lying on the floor in a pretty cockeyed position with his legs and knees all bent out of shape.”

After checking his vitals, Richardson — who happens to be the Assistant Director of Field Operations for the Mission Support Division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection — got MacMillen on his back, straightened him out, and started performing CPR; which he learned during his time in the Marine Corps.

“I would say that if anybody is found in that situation, don’t be afraid to jump in and do something,” Richardson said.

Saving MacMillen was a true team effort. Here is a timeline of events provided by Mercy Hospital:

  • Richardson jumped in to help MacMillen and started CPR
  • First responders from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, Erie County Emergency Services and American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance crew started advanced emergency treatment and transported MacMillen to Mercy Hospital
  • Emergency department physicians and nurses triaged, diagnosed and expedited his care
  • Cardiologists performed a life-saving cardiac catheterization procedure
  • Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) staff — including specialized critical care physicians and specially-trained nurses and advanced practice providers — cared for him
  • Cardiovascular Surgery performed heart surgery that MacMillen needed to heal
  • Physician hospitalists, medical/surgical nurses, case managers, social workers and other healthcare professionals continued caring for MacMillen in the Cardiovascular Patient Care Unit
  • MacMillen was transferred to the medical rehab unit at Kenmore Mercy Hospital for intense rehabilitation therapy — making him stronger and placing him on the road to recovery

Thanks to Richardson, the first responders and all the healthcare professionals at Mercy Hospital’s Heart Center, MacMillen is alive to tell his story.

“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank them all,” MacMillen said. “I was a very, very fortunate, lucky and blessed man to get through this whole scenario.”

“Without [the first responders’] help and quick actions, I wouldn’t have my husband here with me today,” said MacMillen’s wife, Caroline, who shared a light moment during Thursday’s reunion. “The one thing that I remember he said was, ‘They cut my clothes off. They cut my jacket.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s alright. It can be replaced.’ So again, thank you, everyone.”

According to the American Heart Association, more than 356,000 cardiac arrests occur outside a hospital in the U.S. each year. With February being American Heart Month, Mercy Hospital is bringing attention to cardiovascular health.

“As we wind down American Heart Month in February, Mercy Hospital is proud to host this special Heart Patient Reunion Event,” Mercy Hospital said in a press release about MacMillen’s reunion. “Just like there are four quarters in a football game to decide the winner of a game, there are six links in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Out-of-Hospital Chain of Survival that can save a life. A strong Chain of Survival can improve chances of survival and recovery for victims of cardiac arrest. In fact, Bystander CPR can double or triple the chance of survival from an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. In Alexander’s case, every team member worked together successfully to hit the mark in the Chain of Survival to save his life.”

After open-heart surgery with a triple bypass and a long rehabilitation process, MacMillen is back home and doing well — ready for another Bills season. He was even gifted a signed Bills jersey by Mercy Hospital during their reunion.

“I always had a pretty optimistic view of life and I still do,” MacMillen said. “There’s a lot of good people out here that will help us when we need it and they did. They all chipped in. They all worked to save my life and bring me back.”

Jordan Norkus is an anchor who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.