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John Kavanah, Mike Usher, Pasquale Santucci, Dot Kavanah, Thomas O’Sullivan, Jeff Rappaport, Amy Tilipko, Ellen Golds, Alan Golds, Jenny Lee, and Michele Porter.

Lifesavers spur award and CPR training

By Jackie Lupo

HASTINGS — Jeff Rappaport of Hastings knew the value of teamwork as a member of “Softball Lite,” a co-ed group that has taken the field at Zinsser Park since around 2001. But it wasn’t until Sept. 4, 2016, that Rappaport really found out what being a “team player” meant.

That was the day Rappaport suffered a cardiac arrest on the ballfield and was resuscitated, thanks to the quick thinking of a teammate, Dr. Greg Solomon of Riverdale, who administered CPR. Solomon, an internist, was joined by the Hastings Police Department, the Hastings Volunteer Ambulance Corps (HVAC), and the Town of Greenburgh paramedics.

Rappaport, 61, has no memory of that day, but his fellow Liters will never forget it. His brush with death inspired them to reach out to Dobbs Ferry resident Jared Rosenberg, the Town of Greenburgh’s paramedic supervisor, who earlier this month trained the team in CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) at the HVAC building on Main Street. Following the March 4 training session, the nine responders who came to Rappaport’s aid in September were presented with a new award established by the four chiefs of the Hastings-on-Hudson Fire Department. The departmental medal is called the “Matty Kavanah Life-Saving Award” in memory of Kavanah, a 60-year fire department and ambulance corps volunteer who died in 2014.

Recipients of the award included Solomon, EMT Amy Tilipko, Hastings Engine 46 (Riverview Manor Hose Co.) 1st Lt. Alan Golds and his wife, EMT Ellen Golds, EMT Michele Porter, HVAC Capt. Jenny Lee, Officers Thomas O’Sullivan and Pasquale Santucci of the Hastings Police Department, and Greenburgh paramedic Mike Usher. Most ambulance drivers are EMTs (emergency medical technicians), who are trained in CPR and first aid. Paramedics have a higher level of training in techniques for advanced life support.

According to John Lindner, 2nd assistant chief of the Hastings Fire Department, “We had a firefighting award, but we didn’t have one for life saving. We felt that this was the perfect example of everyone, a civilian, the police, the ambulance corps — which is part of the fire department — and the paramedics all working as a team to save someone. So we came up with a medal... to recognize the people who accomplish this. They answer so many calls a year and [the fire department and ambulance corps] is all volunteer. They answer over 500 calls a year with no pay. Amy Tilipko answered over 240 calls last year. They do so much and people know so little about them and what they do.”

Lindner said Rappaport's crisis was the perfect example of why everyone should become certified in CPR. “Here are some people on a nice day playing softball. And if the doctor, the volunteers from the ambulance corps, the fire, the police, the Greenburgh paramedics, if they hadn’t been there, Mr. Rappaport might not be here.”

Rappaport was less equivocal when he spoke to the Enterprise on March 11. “If it wasn’t for all that teamwork I would not be here. I would not be talking to you,” he stated.

Coming face to face with his rescuers on March 4 was “gratifying beyond belief,” Rappaport said. It was the first time he met Usher, the paramedic who had intubated him on the ballfield. “And Alan Golds and his wife, Ellen [whom Rappaport knew because he had tutored their daughter], they were in the ambulance,” Rappaport said, adding that he was glad to see many village officials at the ceremony.

“Knowing a lot of these individuals that play major roles in the running of the village coming to my rescue in a situation like that is very gratifying. It’s not anonymous, and the fact that they do this — a lot of them as volunteers — is really remarkable.”

Rappaport, who teaches physics at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in Manhattan, has been a member of the softball team for about eight years. “There’s a wide age range, from their twenties to their seventies,” he said. “There are a lot of good athletes and good players and camaraderie. Rain or shine, we try to get together. Our games are usually on Saturday, then we go to Maud’s for lunch and a few beers.”

According to what Rappaport was later told by his teammates, “I got a clean base hit, rounded first, and collapsed. No pulse, no heartbeat, nothing.”

Immediately, 911 was called while Solomon continued to do chest compressions on Rappaport  “right on the dirt around first base.”

Arriving first on the scene, Hastings police assisted with CPR and applied the automatic external defibrillator. Moments later the HVAC arrived and continued CPR until the Greenburgh paramedics arrived with their LUCAS machine, a CPR device that automatically delivers uninterrupted chest compressions at a consistent rate. Once his pulse was restored, Rappaport was transported to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.

Five years ago, Rappaport survived a cardiac incident — “I went down in a spin class,” he recalled — which was caused by a blockage in the left anterior descending artery.

Rappaport explained that at the time, his doctors had recommended an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). “I said no because there were a lot of problems with these defibrillators,” he said. “There’s surgery... there’s a box, a large incision... a wire is threaded through a blood vessel and bolted to the heart. I was making a very nice recovery, so why go in for a surgical procedure?”

September's cardiac arrest, Rappaport’s doctors determined, was the result of an “electrical” problem, and he had an ICD implanted during his hospitalization.

Rappaport is now an ambassador for universal CPR education. “Knowing CPR or brushing up on CPR is essential for everyone,” he said. “You don’t want to be helpless if someone goes into cardiac arrest. You’ve got 10 seconds. You don’t have time to wait for the ambulance. I had had a CPR class many moons ago, but it’s important to take a refresher. For the two hours you take a class, you can save someone’s life.”

Rappaport plans to be on the ballfield this spring.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


March 17, 2017

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