“It really saved me:” Survivors celebrate emergency responders

Above: Woodstock resident Joe Ali, third from right, was saved by first responders from Woodstock Fire Department Companies 4 and 5 after he went into cardiac arrest in December 2014. Ali was reunited with the people who worked to save him at Ulster County’s EMS Recognition Dinner on Friday, May 15 in Kingston. Photo by Bob Baker of the Woodstock Fire Department.

It’s National Emergency Medical Services Week, and communities across the Catskills are celebrating memorable “saves” by their first responders from the past year.

Left: Joe Ali at the Ulster County EMS Recognition Ceremony on May 15. Photo by Bob Baker. 

In Kingston on Friday, May 15, Joe Ali of Woodstock credited the quick reaction of first responders with saving his life when he went into cardiac arrest in December 2014.

Ali, a 54-year-old psychiatric nurse who works at HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley Hospital, collapsed without warning in his Woodstock home in front of his wife and children, he said. 

“I was in the living room with my family, and my 9-year-old son had made me a beautiful clay kiln gift,” Ali said. “I opened it up and said, ‘This is beautiful,’ and then I just kind of slumped and fell to the floor.”

Ali’s wife called 911, and sent the couple’s 12-year-old daughter running to fetch to a neighbor, Jennifer Costa, who is a critical care nurse with extensive emergency experience.

“She was there within two minutes doing cardiac compressions,” Ali said. “The five to eight minutes that she did it really saved me. Without them, I’d probably be alive, but I wouldn’t be me.”

Other first responders soon arrived, including another of Ali’s neighbors, Rich Muellerleile, the EMS Coordinator for Ulster County and the chief of the Shandaken Ambulance Service.

Ali was taken to the hospital, where he was put on life support and a heart pump was installed in his left ventricle. Ali spent two weeks in a medically-induced coma, and awoke on Christmas Day. He was released from the hospital about a week later. Today, he is completely healthy.

People who go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting have a 10 percent change of survival, according to statistics from the American Heart Association. 

At the awards dinner, Ali was reunited with the first responders from the Woodstock rescue squads who helped save his life. “It’s great to circle back and say ‘Great job,’” he said.

Sullivan County’s “call of the year”

Also on Friday, Catskill Regional Medical Center held an awards ceremony to celebrate Sullivan County first responders.

Above: Members of the American Legion First Volunteer Ambulance Service accept the Chuck Meyer Award in honor of their squad’s founder at the Sullivan County EMS awards ceremony on Friday, May 15 at Catskill Regional Medical Center. From left to right: Laura Northrup, administrator for labor and delivery at CRMC; a representative from American Legion First Volunteer Ambulance Service; Dr. Gerard Galarneau, the CEO of CRMC; State Senator John Bonacic; Bruce Ellsweig, the director of family practice at CRMC; Wendy Brown, administrator for emergency, critical care end support services at CRMC; and two more members of the American Legion First Volunteer Ambulance Service. Photo via Senator John Bonacic’s office.

“When people go to a call, it’s usually such a sad event,” said Wendy Brown, the Administrator of Emergency, Critical Care and Support Services for CRMC. “We wanted to do something to get everyone together and have a party.”

Sullivan County’s “call of the year” award went to the White Sulphur Springs Fire Department Team and Mobilemedic EMS, who helped save a prominent member of their community when he, like Ali, suddenly went into cardiac arrest.

On the afternoon of Oct. 9, 2014, Deming Lindsley, a retired New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Officer, went into cardiac arrest in White Sulphur Springs, according to a report of the incident written by Albee Bockman of Mobilemedic EMS.

Lindsley is a beloved figure in Sullivan County — he retired from the DEC as a Lieutenant in 2013 after spending more that 40 years there, according to an article in the Sullivan County Democrat.

When his heart stopped, Lindsley’s wife called 911. Six emergency responders from the White Sulphur Springs Fire Department were by his side in minutes, administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation. Paramedics from Mobilemedic EMS arrived ten minutes after being dispatched, and revived Lindsley’s cardiac function and breathing.

Lindsley was transported to Catskill Regional Medical Center and then to Orange Regional Medical Center’s Cath Lab, where he received advanced cardiac intervention.

Thanks to the fast response, Lindsley was released from the hospital and “continues to lead a normal, healthy life without deficit,” Bockman writes.

Lindsley also has an “improved sense of humor," Bockman wrote. 

Tribute to fallen Schoharie EMS worker

In Albany on Tuesday, May 19, state officials gathered to commemorate two EMS responders who died in the line of duty. One of them was 48-year-old Andre Maurice, of the Richmondville Volunteer Emergency Squad, who died last March.

Above: Senator James L. Seward (right) and Assemblyman Pete Lopez (left) with Andre Maurice’s squad members from the Richmondville Volunteer Emergency Squad. Photo via James Seward’s office.

Maurice responded to a domestic violence call in Schoharie County on March 26, 2014, and then said he wasn’t feeling well and went home to bed, according to press releases from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office and State Senator James L. Seward’s office.

The next day, Maurice was found unresponsive; he had died of a massive stroke. He was an organ donor, and his donated organs went on to help five people.

Maurice’s name was added to the New York State Emergency Medical Services Memorial at a ceremony attended by Gov. Cuomo, State Assemblyman Pete Lopez and Senator Seward, as well as by his family.

Seward’s office released a statement:

Andre Maurice was a selfless volunteer and his dedication to the Richmondville Volunteer Emergency Squad, will never be forgotten” said Senator Seward.  “While only a member of the squad for a short time, he had an immediate and positive impact, and was extremely proud to put on the RVES uniform.  Even in death, his concern for others continues to make a profound difference.  As an organ donor, Andre lives on and has helped better the lives of five other individuals and their families.

How to help

National EMS Week runs from May 17 to May 23, 2015. This year, consider celebrating it by taking a CPR class. 

Joe Ali, the "save" from Woodstock, said that his brush with death has made him realize how important it is for people to learn CPR and to be willing to use it to help their neighbors.

"In a family, in a neighborhood, somebody needs to know CPR, because that’s what makes a difference in outcomes," Ali said. "The bigger, larger thing, is social disconnectedness, which is a problem. In my case, my neighbor knows me, and boom, it’s an impetus to get in there and save Joe. We should build a CPR emergency chain of connection: five people in three houses around you know CPR, and somebody can be over the in two minutes."