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Pa. bystanders, EMS crew recognized for cardiac arrest save

Matt DeCesare went to help Tom Pepe with the only training being the rhythm of the song “Stayin’ Alive”

By Dan Sokil
The Reporter

HATFIELD TWP., Pa. — Township officials have honored a local resident as the newest ‘Hatfield Hero.’

“There’s no greater way of explaining what a hero really is, than to tell you what took place here,” said commissioners President Tom Zipfel at a recent meeting.

On Nov. 17, Tom Pepe was out for a run in the area of Lansdale Avenue in Montgomery Township when he suddenly collapsed, and Hatfield resident Matt DeCesare and his wife Risa were driving down the road and saw it happen.

“They jumped out of their van to help, and they called 911 right away,” Zipfel said, “and this is the part of the story that is just unbelievably amazing.”

“Not only did Matt provide CPR to Tom and save his life, but he had no real CPR training before that. He remembered some type of training, kind of in the back of his mind, on how to do it,” he said.

DeCesare and another bystander then worked together to revive Pepe, and using the rhythm of the song “Stayin’ Alive” to do so until police and paramedics arrived. The song is known to maintain the ideal rhythm of 100-120 compressions per minute and has been used in CPR training.

“He literally made chest compressions on Tom until the EMTs showed up, after about five minutes,” Zipfel said: “They got 911 there as fast as can be, and we are remarkably happy to say that Tom is doing very well.”

“To us, it just showed the fragility of life, right? What’s the chance that Matt, he and his wife Risa were there, and they were going to jump out and help, even though they didn’t really have the full expertise of knowing how to do it, and then to do it? And the outcome is this extraordinary.”

As he spoke to a packed meeting room full of family and friends, Zipfel said he and the board thought Matt “embod(ies) the best of Hatfield Township,” and that the board was “incredibly pleased” to be able to recognize the two, along with Montgomery Township police officers and VMSC Emergency Medical Services corps personnel.

Recognized by name were VMSC lead paramedic Moriyah Cox, paramedic David Homce, EMT Richard Sacks, and paramedic Stephanie Traub, alongside Montgomery Township Officers Hannah Moran and Peter Byrne, K-9 officers Joseph McGuigan and Dan Rose, and patrol sergeant Joseph Schott.

“To the police, and also to the EMTS in particular, we want to thank you not just for this evening, but for what you do every day,” Zipfel said, before adorning each with an honorary medal featuring an “H H” for Hatfield Hero.

“For us, this is a moment where we realize the significance to it, but you probably see events like this more than anyone else, so we want to thank you for everything you do.”

After receiving the recognition from the board, DeCesare said he was thankful for being honored, and “I truly just feel like a random guy, that placed in a position, and I fulfilled the duty that I had.”

“I was never going to leave another human on the side of the road. If I could’ve just been a blockade, that would’ve been just as good, or to be a human, energy as he goes to the next place ... so I’m glad that didn’t happen that day, and that everything fell together. Everyone that volunteers their time, each and every day, whatever the reason behind it,” including the paramedics and police.

“Once you’re done with us, you’re on to the very next place, and you never get to see what happens,” Matt said: “Thank you for recognizing me, and truly the everyday heroes, the people that go to help out their neighbors, that just care about someone, that’s just there each and every day.”

Those interested in Community CPR classes to learn lifesaving skills from VMSC can do so by contacting VMSC Assistant Chief Jeff Owler at; to learn more about VMSC visit or follow " VMSC Emergency Medical Services " on Facebook.

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