Sunday, November 17, 2002

Defibrillator at Game Saves LI Man's Life

By Tom Rock and Daphne Sashin
November 17, 2002

A Bay Shore man's life was saved last night after he had a heart attack in the stands of a high school playoff football game at Hofstra University and was revived with a defibrillator, a team physician and an athletic administrator said.

"Thank God we had the defibrillator here today," said Pat Pizzarelli, Nassau football coordinator. "The response of the doctors and the trainer was exceptional and it saved that gentleman's life."

About 8 p.m. as the players from Locust Valley and Seaford were being introduced, John Tierney, 62, was walking toward the bleachers. Suddenly, his knees buckled and he hit his head on the first row of seats, said Kathy Carusi, the mother of a Locust Valley player, who saw it happen.

Emergency personnel and Hofstra security rushed to him. Artie Sanderstrom, a volunteer firefighter with the Locust Valley Fire Department who was a security supervisor for the game, administered CPR along with Dr. Howard Cohn, Locust Valley team physician.

Whittney Smith, the Locust Valley athletic trainer, then called for the school's automatic defibrillator, which was on the sidelines.

As "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, Tierney was moved underneath the stands out of the rain and hooked up to the machine. Smith had never used a defibrillator before, he said, "other than on a mannequin."

After the first shock from the portable device, the man's heart regained its rhythm briefly, then lost it, Smith said. After the second shock, his heartbeat was restored. Tierney was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where he was admitted to the critical care unit. He was in stable condition last night, spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said. Tierney is an uncle of Locust Valley senior receiver Ryan Simensky.

Under a state law that went into effect Sept. 1, a defibrillator is required to be in every school and at every athletic event and school-sponsored event by Dec. 1. A defibrillator is required at all playoff games, Pizzarelli said. Yesterday's game was a Nassau Conference IV semifinal game.

The Locust Valley school district has about 12 machines. For the past three years, it has had one at the sideline of every sporting event, a school official said.

"If that man lives, it is because of [Smith]," Cohn said. "Without the defibrillator, he never comes back."

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