Like every other Sunday during the basketball season, Debi Mrozowski was manning the scoreboard and game clock for the Wallingford, Connecticut Parks and Recreation Department.
"9-1-1 has already been dialed!
"She heard a voice shout from a different court. He is not responding!"
A 38-year-old man who had fallen over appeared to be dead. Although Mrozowski knew who he was, he had never met him and didn't know his name. Nevertheless, she had received training in using an AED and performing CPR (AED).
So had Connie Bickford, who just so happened to be in the stands that day and had completed CPR and AED training with Mrozowski in 2006.
Bickford seized the AED as Mrozowski started applying chest compressions to the man, and someone else dialed 9-1-1. They had a great start in preserving his life.
The woman fastened the pads on the man's chest after Bickford delivered the equipment. After checking for a heartbeat, the device sent back the message, "Shock recommended."
The moment the two of us exchanged looks, Mrozowski recalled thinking, "Oh my God, this is true."
In between chest compressions, Mrozowski and Bickford used the AED four times to shock the player's heart back into rhythm. The man hit his mouth when he collapsed, causing it to bleed, so they did Hands-Only CPR instead of the standard mouth-to-mouth technique.
Approximately 20 minutes later, paramedics showed up. Even more time was required before the patient was fully revived.
But the most important thing is that he was revived.
While his drama unfolded at the hospital, Mrozowski had his own consequences.
She recalled, "I literally crawled away; I was so tired." You don't know how difficult the workout is because your adrenaline rushes in, but after that, I discovered muscles I had never thought I possessed.
On that particular day, February 23, 2014, Jonathan Davis had ventricular fibrillation (VFib), a cardiac rhythm disorder in which the lower chambers flutter and the heart is unable to pump blood. He was given an internal defibrillator at age 38 to keep his heartbeat regular.
Davis and his family went back to the court the following Sunday to thank his lifesavers. They gave a note and flowers to Mrozowski. Davis returned with his 6-year-old son at the end of the season to provide additional appreciation.
It helped Mrozowski put things into perspective, she said. "His family is still together because of how swiftly we responded."
Mrozowski's life has also been altered by the incident.
She searches for the AED wherever she goes, just in case. Every time she enters the gym where Davis passed out, it still runs through her thoughts.
She said, "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about this gentleman."
An AED was utilized to save the life of a local 17-year-old teenager who had collapsed about ten years previously. His family lobbied for AEDs to be accessible in Wallingford's educational institutions and public structures, and school administrators encouraged all staff members to complete training.
At the time, Mrozowski and Bickford were employed at Rock Hill Elementary in Wallingford. Mrozowski was particularly affected by the terrifying experience when she was 17, as her kid was the same age.
Mrozowski is now an American Heart Association volunteer spokesperson. Over 50 years ago, the AHA contributed to the development of CPR, which it is still working to improve. In over 60 countries, the organization annually trains more than 15 million people.
Anyone can save a life even without formal training by recalling the steps of Hands-Only CPR: dial 9-1-1, then push firmly and rapidly in the center of the chest, preferably to the beat of the iconic disco song "Stayin' Alive," until assistance arrives. The AHA also urges governments to approve legislation mandating CPR instruction for high school students before they graduate, thus increasing the number of potential lifesavers in our neighborhoods.
Mrozowski spoke about her experience at a local affiliate board meeting and the Go Red For Women kick-off brunch in October. Her motivational story serves as a call to action for more people to receive CPR and AED training.
She is also well-known in her community for taking swift action.
The AHA recognized Mrozowski as a Heartsaver Hero, the Wallingford Parks and Recreation Department Board of Directors honored Mrozowski and Bickford, and the Wallingford Board of Education awarded Mrozowski staff member of the month.
She declared, "I don't think of myself as a hero." "I was just fortunate to be there at the right time with the appropriate tools," she said.