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Ted Rabinowitz has performed CPR and saved lives as part of the Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps for more than three decades. But he never imagined his quick-thinking colleagues would end up saving his own after a heart attack earlier this year.
“You don’t read about this too often,” Rabinowitz said at a ceremony to honor his saviours at the corps headquarters, at 257-02 Union Tnpk. Sunday.
Rabinowitz’s survival, let alone his casual presence at the event, was a testament of how vital the corps can be. Less than 10 percent of people who go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive, according to Brenda Morrissey.
“Far fewer people survive to go home,” she added. “But as has always been the case for Ted, he dared to be different.”
On the morning of June 18, Rabinowitz reported for Saturday duty along with Frank Racaniello.
It was a routine the two had done for decades. After they arrived at the headquarters around 7 a.m., they would walked across the street to buy lottery tickets, coffee and bagels.
The two had formed a relationship like partners in cop movies. Each knew the other’s family. Racaniello was even in Rabinowitz’s wedding.
But Rabinowitz said he was not feeling well that morning and went home despite Racaniello’s suggestion he go to a doctor.
“He was his stubborn self,” Racaniello said.
Rabinowitz’s wife Judy should have been at the gym, but she was running late that morning and still at home.
“The whole thing was a coincidence,” she said.
She has also served on the corps for decades and when she discovered her husband going into cardiac arrest on the floor of their Glen Oaks home, her training immediately kicked in.
“When it’s your husband, you can’t explain it but you know what you have to do,” she said. “I couldn’t get hysterical.”
Rabinowitz’s heart had stopped. His wife called the corps and then 911, but it was her colleagues who arrived first on the scene.
Back at headquarters, Racaniello only needed to hear two words from another volunteer before he ran out of an EMT class he was instructing and bounded down the stairs: “It’s Ted.”
For nearly four minutes, Rabinowitz had no heartbeat. His wife performed CPR on her husband, forcing oxygen into his lungs and blood through his veins until the corps arrived and worked on Rabinowitz, eventually regaining a pulse.
The whole incident is a blur for Rabinowitz’s wife, but Racaniello recalled each detail of that day.
After arriving at the scene, he ordered Chodo, the Rabinowitzs’ dog, out of the way and ran into the house where he had attended countless barbecues and dinners.
“I just walked right into the house,” he said. “I knew it like the back of my hand.”
But Racaniello said beers and hamburgers with his longtime friend were not on his mind. Years of training and instinct guided him through the day.
Rabinowitz was taken to the critical care unit at North Shore-LIJ, where he received two stints and underwent weeks of treatment.
A handful of the roughly 100 volunteers who make up the corps were on hand for the ceremony, as well as EMTs and a paramedic from North Shore-LIJ, an FDNY EMS lieutenant and firefighters from Engine 251, who also assisted in Rabinowitz’s rescue.
Because of them, the dedicated volunteer was there in the flesh, begrudgingly posing for pictures. He handed his wife a bouquet of flowers with the message: “Judy, thanks for being late for the gym” and vowed to return to the corps.
“Once you start doing it, it becomes a part of you,” he said. “I’m going to go back on the truck and do everything I used to do.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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