EMT’s lauded for life-saving efforts for Arthur Avenue man

Peter DeLuca surrounds himself with his son Peter and wife Diane. He holds a commemorative plaque highlighting St. Barnabas’ life-saving efforts made for him on March 7th. Those included (l) Dr. Ernest Patti and EMT’s James Gelzer and Robert Avallone (r).

It’s not often patients meet the Emergency Medical Technicians who saved their life.

Arthur Avenue businessman Peter DeLuca is a different story.

Deluca, 54, was able to meet and thank St. Barnabas Hospital EMT’s Robert Avallone and James Gelzer, two of the on-scene workers who laid the groundwork for his recovery.

The married father of two reunited with the EMT’s along with his friend, Dr. Ernest Patti at a recognition ceremony honoring the crews during EMS week.

“They did their job right, they responded quickly, they were prepared,” said DeLuca with a humble smile and a recognition plaque in his arm.

The last time the four met in March, it was on a more dramatic scale.

After wrapping up his payroll for his family-owned business, Vincent’s Meat Market at 2374 Arthur Ave., DeLuca began to have chest pains, unusual since he just received a clean bill of health from his doctor.

“Everything came out perfect,” he said. “Then a couple weeks later I had a heart attack.”

DeLuca collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. His panicked staff quickly called 911.

Minutes later, St. Barnabas teams arrived.

Gelzer’s Basic Life Support unit got to the scene first. The 12-year veteran and partner Anthony Ralone saw police surrounding DeLuca.

“We took charge of the scene and administered CPR,” said Gelzer, 44, who quickly called for backup.

Avallone, a member of St. Barnabas’ Advanced Life Support team, then went to work.

“We put the tube down his throat and we shocked him three times,” said Avallone of the electronic defribrilator used to bring DeLuca back from the dead.

His heart soon began ticking again. But his treatment wasn’t over yet.

At St. Barnabas, Dr. Patti was on duty when Avallone raced in with DeLuca strapped to a gurney.

“Avallone says, ‘Get over here, it’s your friend!” recalled Patti.

Patti initiated therapeutic hypothermia, a procedure that dropped DeLuca’s body temperature from 99 down to 90 degrees to prevent brain damage.

“It gives patients a better chance of being ‘neurologically intact’” Patti explained.

Eight days later, DeLuca left St. Barnabas.

With the experience now behind him, DeLuca said he has a new outlook on life.

“We take a lot of things for granted, and it’s a shame,” said DeLuca.

Gelzer and Avallone were honored during EMS Week last Thursday.

This was Gelzer’s first time being honored for a job he finds to be a “a calling”. While he rarely meets those lives he saved, he knows he’s made a difference – “We know in the back of our mind we made someone’s lives brighter.”

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or email dcruz@cnglocal.com.

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