Residents thanked for life-saving efforts

From left, Anthony Perna, Setul Pardanani, Leora Horowitz and Caitriona Perna were all honored by the town for their life-saving efforts last year at a school district meeting. —Ken Borsuk

From left, Anthony Perna, Setul Pardanani, Leora Horowitz and Caitriona Perna were all honored by the town for their life-saving efforts last year at a school district meeting. —Ken Borsuk

It was another meeting in the seemingly endless cycle that makes up the process by which the public speaks about educational issues in Greenwich. This one was about the implementation of the common core curriculum in town and how it would impact math studies. But when someone at the meeting collapsed unconscious in cardiac arrest, the night turned into something extraordinary.

Not only was Hamilton Avenue School, the location for the Oct. 29 meeting, equipped with the automated external defibrillator (AED) that can save someone’s life in the case of a sudden cardiac incident, but there were also trained professionals in the audience who knew exactly how to use it. And because of their quick action, a life was saved.

Those actions were honored last Friday at a special ceremony at the school district’s headquarters in the Havemeyer Building on Greenwich Avenue. Leora Horowitz and Setul Pardanani, both of whom are doctors, Caitriona Perna, a registered nurse, and Anthony Perna were all presented citations from the town for their quick actions when the parent collapsed at the meeting. Working together, these four individuals were able to administer an electric shock to the person’s heart, allowing the person to begin to regain consciousness just as first responders from Greenwich Emergency Medical Services (GEMS) were arriving at the scene. That person is alive and well today, and the four were thanked by the town for their efforts.

“This is truly a wonderful story to tell,” First Selectman Peter Tesei said before presenting the citations to the honorees. “This is about citizens helping their fellow citizens, which is important particularly when it comes to life safety. I’ve said repeatedly and will continue to say that there is nothing more important in terms of the services that our community provides than life safety services. Without that, we are not going to be able to take care of people in our hometown. This story is a particularly special one because it was citizens at an event who were called into the most important act of duty by saving the life of one of their fellow parents.”

Mr. Tesei said he could not put into words the impact Dr. Horowitz, Dr. Pardanani, Ms. Perna and Mr. Perna had on this person and the person’s family, as well as the community at large. He said he wanted to personally thank them for all they had done and Charlee Tufts, GEMS’ executive director, said that because of the partnerships GEMS had with the community, events like this could happen. She said community efforts like this from everyday citizens keep GEMS’ survival rates in cardiac incidents at the high level they are.

“We more than double the survival rate in this town than where it is nationwide,” Ms. Tufts said. “It’s because we have every single one of us working on this.”

Superintendent of Schools William McKersie spoke of the frequently cited Hillary Clinton expression that “it takes a village” to do something special and said, “That evening, the village stepped up and with no preparation or planning were able to help a fellow parent.” He said credit also had to go to Deputy Superintendent of Schools Ellen Flanagan, Glenville School Principal Marc D’Amico and other school staff members there at that meeting who assisted, particularly in crowd management and what he called “crowd care” to keep the situation from worsening.

In brief remarks after the event, Dr. Horowitz and Dr. Pardanani made sure to say it was “totally a team effort” from all of them to save the person’s life. They, along with Ms. Perna, all had received training in how to use an AED. Dr. Horowitz said when they saw the person collapse they rushed over to assess the situation and begin resuscitative measures. The machine was placed over the person to deliver the shock. Dr. Pardanani said the machine is designed to be “foolproof” and that anyone can use it in an emergency as it’s placed over a patient’s chest and the machine determines when to give the electric shock to help assist in a cardiac situation.

“This was a situation where we saw something and we just acted,” Dr. Horowitz said.

Dr. Flanagan came over after the ceremony to offer her personal thanks to the four as well, saying it was “very comforting to have you all there.”

Mr. Tesei made sure to give credit to GEMS as well. Saying he was passionate about the town’s ambulance service, Mr. Tesei praised them for providing the “utmost high quality of emergency medical response” both through emergencies and through training in areas like CPR that can help citizens in situations like this. Mr. Tesei added that it was GEMS that made sure schools had AEDs in them and that they were in good working order.

“This is something that’s going to go down in Greenwich’s history as a shining moment,” Mr. Tesei said. “It’s what’s great about Greenwich. It’s people coming together to help people.”

Mr. Tesei did note the timing of the event, since it was a few weeks before work on the 2014-15 municipal budget, which partly funds GEMS, began in earnest. Without specifically referencing the Board of Estimate and Taxation, Mr. Tesei said it was important for “those in decision-making positions” to hear from the public about events like this to stress the need to continue funding GEMS and “not compromise” on it.

“We are a heart-safe community because of the work GEMS has done to educate and prepare people,” Mr. Tesei said before turning his attention back to the honored four. “I think it’s a testament to you and your heroic actions and a testament to having such high-quality emergency medical services in this town.”




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