Teamwork is at the foundation of everything the FDNY does, and members of the Fire and EMS service proved that on Dec. 2, when they saved the life of a man who went into cardiac arrest at a Staten Island gym.
Off-duty Firefighter Ken Labarbera from Engine 168, off-duty EMT James Manti from Station 16 and retired Lieutenant Fred Capetta were exercising at a New York Sports Club at 300 West Service Rd. at around 2 p.m.
Retired Lt. Capetta was jogging on a treadmill near Firefighter Labarbera, who was on an elliptical machine, when they saw a bystander helping a man in his 50s who had fallen off a Stairmaster. "At first I thought he'd hurt his leg or lost his balance," Firefighter Labarbera said. "But then I saw he didn't move, so I went to help."
They found the victim had stopped breathing, so the three men helped move him to an open area of the gym. Retired Lt. Capetta, who now works as a nurse at Staten Island University Hospital South, said, "We immediately worked as a team, opening his airway and starting chest compressions."
At the same time, EMT Manti had finished working on the Stairmaster, saw the commotion and immediately ran to help. The group hooked up the automated external defibrillator, which indicated the victim had no pulse, and shocked him. They continued doing CPR until members of Engine 154 arrived and took over.
As they continued work, the victim continued to show signs of improvement. And when he was removed by EMS members, his pulse had been restored, his breathing continued to improve and he began to regain consciousness, even struggling a bit.
EMS members transported him to St. Vincent's Medical Center, where he is recovering.
"This was so well coordinated," said retired Lt. Capetta. "We just helped in any way we could."
Both Firefighter Labarbera and EMT Manti said it was a little unusual to rescue someone while off-duty. "It was a little weird to be at the gym and start doing this out of nowhere," EMT Manti said. "Since CPR was started immediately, I know there's a better chance for him, so I'm just glad I was able to help."
Firefighter Labarbera - who said he learned later that the victim taught his brother's baseball team when he was a boy - added that it was a little nerve-wracking to be working without his gear, but said, "I've done it while on duty before, so it felt natural."
Lt. Ryan said the victim's nephew, who is also a firefighter, called to thank the company afterwards - and he said he had done the same thing after his brother had gone into cardiac arrest while out to dinner a few years ago (He has since made a full recovery.) "[Firefighter Labarbera, EMT Manti and Lt. Capetta] did a great job and deserve all the credit," said Lt. Timothy Ryan from Engine 154. "Their actions saved the victim's life."