AVERY COUNTY, N.C. — It was a sweet reunion in the North Carolina mountains when a local fire department got nearly a $50,000 grant to purchase lifesaving equipment.

The money came from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation one year after the company’s CEO, Don Fox, who has more than 1,200 restaurants nationwide, had a heart attack on a popular trial on Grandfather Mountain and local firefighters saved him.

He and his wife had gone for a hike on the Profile Trail on the backside of Grandfather Mountain when he started having chest pains. First responders from across Avery county scrambled to get to Fox, who was more than two miles from the trailhead.

“There were periods I didn’t think I was getting off that mountain alive. Sort of reconciled myself to it that it was ending there,” Fox said.

On Thursday, Fox and the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation presented a check to help purchase a portable defibrillator and resuscitation system that does chest compressions during a carry out.

The fire department believes the new equipment will allow it to save lives on the dozens of rescues its firefighters do each year. Especially on the Profile Trail, which is one of the most rugged in the area.

“That piece of equipment will be a game changer for us. God forbid something like that happens for real in life,” paramedic Garrett Stonesifer said.

Fox became very emotional as he thanked firefighters from the Linville Volunteer Fire Department and other first responders for saving his life. Firehouse Subs has also donated tens of millions of dollars to first responders and others.

“The rescue team busted their tail to get up there. Without them, I don’t know how we would have ever gotten down,” Fox said. “I am forever thankful for their efforts to come rescue me that day.”

Fox told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty that he had to undergo heart surgery after his ordeal but has made a full recovery. He said he hopes to continue to hike in North Carolina and elsewhere.

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