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November 11, 2015
Bartender, medics save cardiac arrest patient
By Frank Juliano
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — John Simon, of Milford, wanted to thank the men who saved his life.
So two of the three ambulance crew members and the bartender from Ralph-n-Rich’s gathered around Simon’s Bridgeport Hospital bed Tuesday morning to accept a tray of cookies and profound thanks from Simon and his wife, Linda.
The couple, who live in Milford, were dining at the Bridgeport restaurant Oct. 24, when Simon collapsed at the table, moments after telling his wife, "I think I’m having a heart attack. Get help."
What followed is the stuff of television medical dramas, but rare in real life.
Bartender Saayied Halabi, who had recently completed an EMT training class at Bridgeport Hospital, sprang into action, doing chest compressions alongside a nurse who just happened to be dining at the restaurant.
Linda Simon called 911, and within a minute, Carter DeMarco, a paramedic, and P.J. Bridge, an advanced EMT for American Medical Response, arrived on the scene.
AMR keeps at least one crew in Bridgeport, at the State Police barracks on the edge of downtown, AMR operations manager Bill Schietinger said.
"It was a perfect storm," he said. "Everything just fell into place."
DeMarco, Bridge and John Macauda, of AMR, began advanced cardiac life support on Simon, inserting a breathing tube, shocking his heart to restore normal rhythm and administering drugs. Simon arrived at Bridgeport Hospital within minutes and underwent several procedures, including bypass surgery and a heart-valve replacement.
The 68-year-old man said he is now well on the way to recovery.
They call it a "true save," and it’s rarer than you’d think.
"Only about 12 to 13 percent of people nationally who go into full cardiac arrest are saved outside the hospital," Schietinger said. "Even in the hospital, the survival rate is about 30 percent."
"What happened here is what is supposed to happen," the AMR manager said. "All of the elements fell into place. You had early recognition, early 911 notification, early defibrillation and early advanced cardiac support."
Carter and Halabi are both graduates of the EMT training program run by Bridgeport Hospital. The hospital produces 25 paramedics and 200 EMTs a year, said Barry Barkinsky, Bridgeport Hospital’s EMS coordinator.
The Simons have a grown son, who will be bringing the Milford couple’s two grandchildren to the hospital for a visit.
When her husband suddenly became ill, Linda Simon said, "It was horrifying. People around us thought at first he was choking. I felt his face and his hands; they weren’t cold and clammy, like you’re told to expect with a heart attack. Everything just came together for us."
John Simon said that he is grateful for the quick response, "so much that I’m willing to overlook the possibly cracked rib," he joked.