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As with “I’m sorry,” it’s never too late to say “Thank you.” That’s why ex-policeman Larry Frederick, who nearly 36 years ago lay gruesomely injured and freely bleeding alongside a freeway, reserved a large table Monday at a Santa Rosa restaurant.

Frederick has no doubt he’d have died after a Ford LTD going 65 mph struck him down in August 1982 had a number of people not done precisely what they did for him, precisely when they did it. “A series of small miracles saved his life,” Frederick’s wife, Gail, said from alongside him at the table at Stark’s Steakhouse & Seafood.

Her husband the former Oakland police officer asked several of his miracle-workers to allow him to thank them by treating them to a long overdue lunch.

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ONLY TWO were able to make it, Jim Fazackerley and Steve Stuart, the former Allied Ambulance emergency medical technicians who monitored the hit-and-run crash on Oakland’s Nimitz Freeway on a police-fire radio scanner and were at Frederick’s side within about two minutes.

“I won’t ever forget that call or the remarkable recovery you made,” Fazackerley, now a paramedic instructor living in west Marin County, told Frederick Monday. Fazackerley and former ambulance partner Stuart, today a retired Napa firefighter/paramedic, hadn’t seen Frederick since they tended to him on the shoulder and then on a wild ride to Oakland’s Highland Hospital.

At Monday’s lunch, Frederick hugged the former ambulance medics and shared recollections of the day with them. He spoke also with two other of his heroes through his cellphone’s external speaker.

Vigorous and grateful and almost always in pain at 68, Frederick has for decades focused on giving back to the blood bank system that provided him 54 pints of donated blood on just his first day in the hospital. He has done remarkable, nationally significant things to promote blood donation.

But it dawned on him recently he had not thanked the people whose quick actions that night in Oakland in 1982 kept him alive. Nodding toward former EMTs Fazackerley and Stuart, he said, “These guys got skipped over for 35 years.”

The restaurant in Santa Rosa’s West End might not have been big enough to accommodate all of the people Frederick would like to thank. He reached out to some key ones, including the fellow who rode with him on patrol as a civilian that night and reacted perfectly when the hit-and-run occurred.

Frederick, who prior to becoming a police officer served as a Marine in Vietnam, recalls that he was near the end of his shift and he and his ride-along, Doug Rheinhardt, were driving toward downtown Oakland on the Nimitz, near the Fifth Avenue exit. It was about 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 21, 1982, a Saturday.

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A CAR SPED PAST the patrol car and civilian Rheinhardt asked Officer Frederick, “You going to let him get away with that?” Frederick replied that he would pull the driver over and warn him about speeding.

He made the stop. Both cars were parked front-to-back on the shoulder and Frederick was standing beside the speeding driver’s door when it happened.

Aware that a car was headed directly at him, Frederick jumped.

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

But the car, driven by a man addled by drugs, slammed into his right leg and sent him flying. Frederick lay unconscious and bled profusely from a huge, deep wound on his leg. Among his myriad other injuries, his skull was fractured and there was major damage to his back and pelvis.

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THE MINI MIRACLES kicked in.

Patrol car passenger Rheinhardt, whom Frederick had taught to use the two-way radio, did superbly in instantly reporting the hit-and-run crash. What if Rheinhardt, who went on to work a career as a San Diego policeman, hadn’t been there?

Just blocks away, ambulance technicians Fazackerley and Stuart were parked at a Shell station and monitoring emergency radio traffic on the little Radio Shack scanner Fazackerley had bought. They heard Rheinhardt’s radio report and didn’t wait to be dispatched, speeding to the scene.

They were applying pressure to the policeman’s wounds and moving him into the ambulance when Oakland Officer Kevin Gors pulled up. Seeing how horribly hurt Frederick was, Gors told the pair to get into the back with him, that Gors would drive the ambulance.

Frederick dialed Gors Monday and put him on speakerphone. As everyone at the table listened in, now-retired Gors recalled that at one point in the frantic drive to Highland Hospital, the ambulance’s tires were smoking so badly it appeared it was on fire. At another, the van leaned sharply onto two wheels.

“If it saved a fellow officer’s life, I don’t care,” Gors told Frederick and his lunch guests.

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THE DRIVE TOOK about six minutes, then the miracle at Highland began. A team of trauma surgeons quickly assembled and operated on Frederick, constantly administering blood, for 27 hours. Ultimately, he underwent 15 surgeries.

“We were not sure whether or not we were going to be able to save him,” Dr. Nnaemeka Udoh said to the luncheon guests over Frederick’s cellphone. The chief resident at Highland in 1982, he’s now a general surgeon in Los Angeles.

Udoh told Frederick he was sorry to miss the lunch, then added, “I’m so glad you’re still alive.”

“Hey doc,” Frederick said into his cellphone, “I love you and I will be eternally grateful.”

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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