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Pa. mayor creates EMS award after learning about cardiac arrest save

Wilkes-Barre officials recognized firefighter/EMTs and paramedics as well christened a new ambulance


Wilkes-Barre Fire Department/Facebook

By Steve Mocarsky
The Citizens’ Voice

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — City officials honored five fire department employees at a ceremony Wednesday for saving the life of a Blackman Street resident.

“On June 20, 911 struck a call for an unresponsive patient on Blackman Street, which is a couple blocks away from here,” Fire Chief Jay Delaney told a crowd gathered outside the South Fire Station on High Street. “Both of our fire department ambulances were busy; they were both on calls. So, the fire engine from this station responded.”

A fire crew consisting of Capt. Travis Temarantz and fellow firefighter/EMTs Danielle Illiano and James Starosta got in the fire engine, drove to Blackman Street and found a 60-year-old male patient with no pulse and not breathing.

“For all practical purposes, he was not alive, Delaney said.

When the crew found that the man had no pulse and wasn’t breathing, they began rescue breathing and CPR. Starosta, who is also a certified paramedic, applied an automated external defibrillator.

“They defibrillated him the first time and he did not convert. They defibrillated him a second time and started to feel pulses,” Delaney said. “By the time the ambulance crew got to the house, this person already had a pulse back. In my 42 years of being a paramedic, I remember two or three times in my entire career that something like this would happen. They’re responsible for this gentleman walking today.”

A city ambulance crew consisting of paramedic Brandon Grohowski and firefighter/EMT Richard Machey, “heard the criticalness of this call, and quickly cleared the hospital to join them,” Delaney said.

“A mutual aid ambulance could have come into Wilkes-Barre that day because our two were busy. But this team decided, no, we’re not going to shirk this call off to someone else. We’re going to respond to Blackman Street and become part of saving a life.”

Machey and Grohowski “started advanced life support, endotracheal intubation, they did everything they had to do. By the time this person got to Geisinger Wyoming Valley, they were already starting to breathe alone, on their own,” Delaney said.

The patient was released from the hospital nine days later.

“I spoke to him on the phone yesterday because he was going to come here today, and he said, ‘Chief, I’m sorry, I’m back to work,’” Delaney said. “The emergency responders that are all here today know this simply doesn’t happen. But, this team, this team right here, basic life support on the fire engine and advanced life support on the ambulance and great care at Geisinger Wyoming Valley are what saved this gentleman’s life.”

A new award

After speaking with Delaney about the life-saving efforts, Mayor George Brown said he decided to create a new award.

“When life-saving techniques are utilized and we save a life, I’m going to be giving those people that took part in saving that life a special mayor’s award. And we’re going to start today with the very first award,” Brown said.

The Mayor’s Recognition Award for outstanding dedication to the Wilkes-Barre City community is presented in recognition of “outstanding and exceptional lifesaving emergency medical care and constant dedication to the safety and well-being of Wilkes-Barre residents,” reads the award which each firefighter/EMT and paramedic received from Brown along with a plaque with identical text they each received from the fire department.

Delaney noted that the fire engine would not have been in service that day if Mayor George Brown and the firefighters union did not negotiate a contract to put the fire engine back in service the majority of the time.

“The speed and response is amazing, and this is the reason why we wanted to open up the South Station,” Brown said, adding that having it open is “critical” to the Rolling Mill Hill neighborhoods, South Wilkes-Barre and other areas of the city.

Ambulance christened

Firefighters then christened a new $350,000 advanced life support ambulance, the second such vehicle put into service this year, with a traditional “push-in ceremony” led by Capt. Paramedic Jason Poremba and Capt. Kevin Kovatch. Delaney invited guests to help the firefighters push the new vehicle back into the station garage.

The city used American Rescue Plan funding to purchase the first ambulance and an award from Luzerne County’s American Rescue Plan funding to purchase the second.

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