Pavel Fesyuk tends to kill things for a living — he works as a service technician at Town and Country Pest Solutions in Rochester, N.Y., dealing with a multitude of pests throughout the day. But it was an interaction between jobs that made him say to his boss, “Hey, I don’t kill everything I come across.”
Fesyuk was driving his route when he saw a man on the side of the road who appeared to be choking. He pulled over, and the man motioned for Fesyuk to slap him on the back. When that didn’t work, he performed the Heimlich maneuver. Whatever was blocking the man’s throat was gone, and without exchanging names or a “thank you,” the two men departed.
Fesyuk didn’t think much of the incident. He had been recording with a dashboard camera, and sent the footage to his boss, Town and Country Operation Manager Caleb Fabry, who sent the footage to various news outlets. What followed was an intense period in the media spotlight as news organizations from seemingly everywhere wanted to talk to him about his experience. But Fesyuk was nothing if not humble about the event, and was surprised that it received so much attention.
“If you don’t have 30 seconds to help someone, then obviously your schedule is a little too tight,” Fesyuk said.
Fabry said the nonchalant attitude Fesyuk displayed after potentially saving a man’s life was a solid encapsulation of his character — someone who does so many out-of-the-ordinary feats that he doesn’t think twice about it. “It was so strange,” Fabry said. “Pavel is a man of very few words, in general. To him, he came, he saw the job in front of him and he left.”
But it wasn’t Fesyuk’s first time on TV — he spent two years as a contestant on American Ninja Warrior (ANW), an athletic obstacle course-based TV show. After he wasn’t invited back for a third season, he began searching for other pursuits. Up next was mixed martial arts (MMA). Fabry recalled how Fesyuk’s support team — including friends, coworkers and family members — sat ringside to cheer him on at his first and only MMA match where “he pretty much demolished the other person in less than a minute,” he said.
The idea of being a participant on American Ninja Warrior began as just a goal on Fesyuk’s bucket list. “I watched the show for a few years with some friends of mine,” he said. “And we always said it would be cool to be on it.”
While browsing Facebook, Fesyuk came across an application to try out for season six of American Ninja Warrior in 2014. He began to fill it out until he was discouraged by the fact that he was required to make a video. That changed when he saw a friend had made a video in a fairly simple way. “I had my brother put a few clips on there — my personality, what I kind of do in (my spare time) — and just sent it in,” Fesyuk said. “I never expected to get a call back from them saying that I was selected for the show. I guess they kind of really liked the hands-on pest control, wildlife portion of what we (at Town and Country) do.” (Download the video.)
Not too long after, he received a call. “A lot of my friends don’t answer phone numbers that they don’t recognize, and I always do,” Fesyuk said. “So I kind of use that as an example now. I was randomly driving in the car and I saw a California area code. I answered it and he said, ‘Hey this is so-and-so, guess what you’ve been selected.’ I put it on speaker and everyone in the car kind of freaked out.”
Once he arrived on the set in St. Louis, he realized the show is “totally different than what you expect — there’s a lot of show biz stuff.” In order to control the lighting and background, the producers record the show at night. “You’re up all night — 10 p.m. to sunrise,” he recalled.
Fesyuk didn’t make it past the first round during season six, but he was more successful the next year (season seven) in Pittsburgh, where he was selected to move on to the national competition held in Las Vegas. He was eliminated in the national round, and since he didn’t come back for a third season, decided to move on to MMA fighting — another item on his bucket list.
This year, however, he said his goals are a little closer to home — he plans to build a treehouse for his two children, Dominic and Katya. “My wife said, ‘How about no challenges this year?’” — Sean Wolfe