Drumming his fingers on his shirtsleeve, an emotional Dan Brite looked into the eyes of the man who saved his life to thank him.
"Dr. Bertocchi literally held my heart in his hands while he massaged it back to life," the Douglas County Sheriff's Office detective said. "You touched more hearts than just mine that day."
About 80 people gathered at Parker's Town Hall on March 6 to watch Brite's expression of gratitude during a presentation honoring the life-saving work of doctors, nurses and staff at Parker Adventist Hospital.
The ceremony opened with a video recounting the events of Sept. 2, when Randall Rodick, a resident of unincorporated Douglas County, near Parker, opened fire on Brite and fellow officers from the sheriff's office and the Parker Police Department. The officers were responding to a 911 call, placed by Rodick's wife, warning police that he was armed and suicidal. A bullet pierced Brite's side and he was rushed to the hospital as other officers pursued and ultimately killed Rodick.
After the video, Parker Mayor Mike Waid thanked the first responders who arrived at a moment's notice to get Brite to the emergency room, then presented a plaque and specially-made coins to hospital CEO Sam Huenergardt and trauma surgeon Dr. Michael Bertocchi.
“It was an extraordinary day,” Huenergardt said of the day of the shooting, “a day that could have been consumed by chaos … but instead, goodness and kindness prevailed.”
He went on to tell stories of a few of the staff who came back on duty as they were leaving, or bought 100 Chick-fil-A sandwiches for police officers at the hospital, or checked in on the family, throughout that day.
Bertocchi, the surgeon who received and resuscitated Brite, spoke next, stating that the Brite family members “represent the best of humanity.” He paraphrased a surgeon he idolized who said that doctors and staff do the work in a hospital, “but the patients make it meaningful.”
Holding his daughter in his arms, Bertocchi then listened as Brite thanked him for the gift of more time to spend with his own daughters, and the chance to make more memories with his wife.
Brite, a Castle Rock resident, was brought to the hospital with no vital signs after losing a lot of blood. After manually massaging Brite's heart, the staff tried several attempts at defibrillation, all of which failed.
"Doctors and nurses in the operating room asked each other if there was anything else thay could do, and nobody had an answer, so Dr. Bertocchi decided to shock my heart one more time," Brite said. "And it worked. I was alive."
After the ceremony, Bertocchi acknowledged the emotional impact of Brite's speech.
“It hits home when he's sitting there with his girls and I'm sitting there with my girls,” Bertocchi said. “It's just a wonderful thing.”
“It was important that I (thanked him), and nobody else,” said Brite, who returned to light duty work at the sheriff's office less than a month ago. “He's the one that saved my life so he needs to hear it from me and he needs the recognition … All of the nurses and doctors that day were amazing … they don't get nearly as much recognition as they should.”
For his part, Bertocchi said he was just doing what he and his coworkers at the hospital are trained to do. The accolades and recognition are appreciated, he said, but the work continues.
“It's certainly humbling that's for sure,” he said. “We're lucky to have such a highly trained group that's up there and people who are fun to work with and people who really take pride in what they do. So we'll just keep doing it.”