Web Stories Monday, June 24

It was a heartening reunion.

Eight survivors of cardiac arrest — ranging from a teenage boy to a 78-year-old marathon runner — were reunited with the first responders who saved them in a tear-jerking ceremony in Brooklyn Thursday.

The FDNY’s Second Chance brunch, at the Liberty Warehouse in Red Hook, honored hard-working EMTs and paramedics who brought survivors back from the brink of death.

“We don’t often stop and think about the sheer gratitude, relief and joy we bring to somebody’s family,”  FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said at the event.

“Usually, [first responders] are on to the next call, the next emergency, unaware of the outcome of the lives they have touched.”

Here is a look at some of those lives:

Dylan Garcia, 14, of Queens

Garcia was running in gym class at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Academy in Woodhaven, Queens in January 2023,  when he suddenly collapsed and hit the floor face-first.

First responders rushed to the school, quickly began CPR and then zapped him twice with a defibrillator — until he regained a pulse. They inserted a breathing tube and transported him to Jamaica Hospital.

“Without them I don’t think I would be here,” Garcia told The Post. “It was a total surprise to me, I didn’t see it coming.”

Doctors later found the boy was suffering from acute Myocarditis, an inflammation that hinders the heart’s ability to pump blood,  following a COVID-19 infection.

Survivors of cardiac arrest were reunited with the first responders who saved them. Gabriella Bass

He’s now in good health, plays basketball and aspires to be an electrical engineer, he said.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know we were able to save a child and give him that chance to live his life and fulfill his dreams,” said Lieutenant Ricardo Otero, who was among the team who saved him.

Yi-Joo Kwon, 78, of New Jersey

The retired businessman was pounding the pavement during the NYC Marathon in November when he felt pain in his chest.

Within seconds, he keeled over without warning on the upper level of the Verrazano Bridge.

“We were notified there was a man down mid-span,” said Lieutenant Jeanine Rodriguez, of Station 43 on Coney Island. “It was the second-to-last or last wave of runners, so it wasn’t as chaotic as if it happened right at the start, but there were a lot of people around.”

First responders performed CPR, shocked him with a defibrillator and set up an EKG monitor to determine his heart was beating very slowly.

Yi-Joo Kwon collapsed from cardiac arrest during the NYC marathon. Gabriella Bass

First responders rushed Kwon to Staten Island University North hospital, where doctors placed several stents on his heart.

“I am forever grateful to my rescuers,” Kwon said through his daughter, who translated from Korean.

He has since recovered and plans to run another marathon.

Wilfredo Ruiz, 60, of Brooklyn

Ruiz’s wife was stunned when she found him on the floor of their home in January of 2022. 

A family friend called 911 and first responders rushed to the scene, performed CPR and inserted a breathing tube.

After nearly 20 minutes of intense resuscitation, Ruiz finally regained his pulse — much to the relief of EMTs.

“I don’t remember  [the EMTs] but I thank God for them. I feel honored,” he said. 

His nerve-racking near-death experience has since inspired his daughter to train to become a paramedic, he said.

Wilfredo Ruiz’s wife found him on the floor of their Brooklyn home before first responders revived him. Gabriella Bass

Lieutenant Sencia Datilus, who helped revive Ruiz, cried tears of joy as she met the man she helped save.

Sencia Datilus teared up while recalling the rescue. Gabriella Bass

“To see someone we rescued and brought back to life, it makes my heart really warm,” she said.

“I come in, do my job, and never think about the people we brought back to life,” she said. “To actually meet somebody whose heart I witnessed stop and then come back, is mind-blowing.”

“I’m so happy you got a second chance at life,” she said.

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