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EMS providers stop teaching CPR class to save man suffering cardiac arrest

Paramedic Del Black and EMT Gregg Shearer were training museum employees in CPR when Don Mahoney collapsed while volunteering at the same place

By Renatta Signorini

JEANNETTE, Pa. — Don Mahoney was right where he needed to be.

The Butler County man’s interest in space made him a perfect fit to offer his time at the Heinz History Center’s Destination Moon exhibit. But little did he know, the 65-year-old man was about to get help from Jeannette EMS and the center’s head of security when his first day as a volunteer took a sharp turn.

“I am so blessed by this fortuitous sequence of events at that place at that time,” Mahoney said.
Jeannette EMS paramedic Del Black and Gregg Shearer, an emergency medical technician, were at the Strip District museum Oct. 3 to teach a CPR class for employees when a security guard got a call: someone collapsed downstairs.

The pair and head of security Cody Stanoszek rushed to the exhibit and found Mahoney lying on the floor. The Connoquenessing man had just arrived minutes earlier.

“He was in full cardiac arrest,” said Black, of North Huntingdon.

They took over breathing and chest compressions while Stanoszek prepared an on-site AED, or automated external defibrillator. After the third shock, Mahoney came to, said Stanoszek, also of North Huntingdon.

“We brought him back to life before the paramedics showed up,” said Shearer, of Irwin.
Pittsburgh EMS whisked Mahoney away to UPMC Presbyterian, where doctors placed stents in his heart within 45 minutes. Mahoney doesn’t remember anything after arriving at the exhibit and chatting with a security guard until he awoke the next day. Blame it on the “widowmaker,” a heart attack caused by an arterial blockage that can be fatal in minutes.

Stanoszek was relieved to get a phone call later that Mahoney was going to be OK.

“He just had all of the help he needed within a very short period of time,” Heinz History Center volunteer coordinator Ellen DeNinno said.

Mahoney made an emotional return to the center in November and met with some of those who had helped to save his life, including Stanoszek. Mahoney thinks about the circumstances that got him to the Heinz History Center that day—he believes it’s all more than just coincidence.

“If I hadn’t had an interest in the space program, I wouldn’t be down there—I’m dead,” he said.
Stanoszek said the center is seeking a grant to get more AEDs, something Shearer recommends any public building have. All three men were awarded heroism certificates and pins from The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association through UPMC.

Mahoney, who retired in March as a power transmission engineer, has recovered and said he feels better than he has in years. He returned for his second first day as a volunteer last month and is on the schedule throughout January.

“I do believe God orchestrated the whole thing,” Mahoney said. “I really think that he has some plans for me. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to take me that day.”

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