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FF/EMT saves cardiac arrest victim minutes before his wedding

The Pa. firefighter and other wedding guests performed CPR on the aunt of his bride-to-be and used an AED purchased by the church just a week earlier

By Dan Kelly
Reading Eagle

READING, Pa. — Reading firefighter Steve Ginder was shaking hands and greeting friends and family in his bride-to-be Kim Weigner’s church in Branchburg, N.J., when he heard someone say a woman had fainted.

One of Steve’s friends is a nurse, and she was already assessing the woman, who did not have a pulse.

“She had that cardiac arrest look about her,” Steve said in the matter-of-fact way only a professional rescuer would use.

They started doing CPR, and then someone said there was an automated external defibrillator, or AED, in the church.

“I was at home getting ready for the wedding, and Steve was at the church saving my aunt’s life,” Kim said. “Our ceremony was quickly approaching, and I was getting ready to head to the church, and I was wondering why my family was trying to delay my arrival at the church.

“They didn’t want me to know what was occurring.”

Steve went for the AED. Kim’s aunt, Cheryl Trotta, 70, of Bucks County, was unresponsive after the first shock. She began to recover after the second burst of electricity. On the third try she woke up and began talking.

That was surprising to the veteran firefighter.

“I’ve never had anyone do that before,” Steve said.

All too often, people who suffer cardiac arrest don’t wake up at all. Sometimes, you can do CPR all day and the person will not respond. That’s why having an AED on hand is so important.

Kim said the leaders of the church debated for a long time whether they should spend the money to buy the lifesaving device.

“They finally decided to get one a week before my wedding,” she said.

Kim sent me an email and talked to me about the events of Saturday, Aug. 29, her memorable wedding day, because she thought Steve and the others who sprang into action deserved some credit.

“When we went to see my aunt in the hospital, she wanted to thank him and he said, ‘Oh, I didn’t do anything,’ ” Kim said. “Steve is such a humble person.”

Steve and Kim Ginder, who live in Richland, Lebanon County, met at the Sinking Spring YMCA, where she is associate director in charge of membership and children’s programs. Steve is a member.

“Steve shocked my aunt three times, and our pastor came over and said a prayer and she started to open her eyes and speak,” Kim said. “This is something that you would see in the movies or hear about in the news. We never in a million years would think that this could happen, especially on our wedding day.”

Kim said her Aunt Cheryl is home now and on the road to recovery.

In addition to being a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Reading Fire Department for the past three years, Steve has been a member of the Air National Guard for nine years and is scheduled to deploy in mid-October. He thinks he’s going somewhere in the Middle East, but isn’t sure.

What does he do in the Air Force? He’s a firefighter.

“I hope we go somewhere active, but she doesn’t want that, of course,” he joked.

Kim and her Aunt Cheryl are now living ambassadors for AEDs and CPR.

“Every place should have one and everyone should know CPR,” Kim said. “That and everyone one should live every day of their lives to the fullest.

“My aunt almost wasn’t there anymore, and I am so grateful to Steve and his friends for giving her these extra days.”

I walked down to the fire station at Third and Court streets to talk to Steve and take his picture. He is a humble guy. I told him I thought his new bride was very pretty.

“Yes she is,” he said. “I don’t know what she sees in me.”

If I had to guess, I’d say it might be that streak of selfless heroism coursing through his veins.


©2015 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.)