The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recognizes Monmouth County residents for efforts to strengthen the Chain of Survival.

PHOTO: Fred Gruber, an EMT from Ocean Township, NJ

Robbinsville, NJ, June 21, 2017 – Thirty-six individuals and organizations in New Jersey were recently honored at the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association 2017 New Jersey American Heartsavers and Stroke Heroes Awards for their life-saving efforts.

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s American Heartsavers and Stroke Heroes Awards, sponsored by RWJBarnabas Health, is held annually to commend individuals, organizations and schools throughout the Garden State for taking extraordinary steps to strengthen the American Heart Association Chain of Survival or for rescue efforts that saved a life of someone experiencing a cardiac or stroke emergency.

The Chain of Survival is only as strong as its weakest link. The American Heart Association Chain of Survival is a critical five-step process that can mean the difference between life and death for someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack or stroke, as well as other medical emergencies such as choking and drowning. The five critical steps or “links” in the Chain of Survival include:

Link # 1: Early Access (know the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack and stroke and call 9-1-1 immediately)

Link # 2: Early Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Link # 3: Early Defibrillation

Link # 4: Early Advanced Care

Link # 5: Integrated Post-Cardiac Arrest Care

Nearly 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year. Given immediately, CPR doubles or triples survival rates and executing the Chain of Survival can save thousands of lives annually. Additionally, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, while someone dies from a stroke every 4 minutes. Time is crucial for stroke treatment, the faster the Chain of Survival is initiated and symptoms are recognized, the better the outcome.

PHOTO: Gayle Williams, called 9-1-1 and performed CPR her husband collapsed

There are several inspiring stories and Heartsavers and Stroke Heroes awardees from Monmouth County this year.

In April 2016, Fred Gruber, an EMT from Ocean Township, NJ, was at home when he heard a call over his radio about an emergency happening next door.  Upon arrival, Fred found his neighbor’s father on the floor where he quickly recognized the signs of a stroke. Fred advised the responding EMT’s and paramedics of the situation and insisted quick transport to the stroke center for proper evaluation.

In January 2016, after coming inside after shoveling snow Thomas Williams, of Oceanport, NJ felt short of breath.  His wife, Gayle Williams, was concerned and called 9-1-1.  Moments later, Thomas became unresponsive and lost his pulse.   Gayle jumped into action, initiating CPR. She continued with CPR until first aid arrived where they were able to use an AED to regain a pulse. Thomas was transported to the hospital where he underwent surgery and made a full recovery!

In December 2016, several Manasquan High School students recognized a crisis situation and called for help. Their substitute teacher, Vincent Scerbo, collapsed and became unresponsive.  Students ran to get the nurse and other near-by adults, calling for 9-1-1.  Several players jumped into action including calling 9-1-1 and laying the victim down preparing for CPR. Cheryl Bontales, Jacqueline Szenzenstein and assistant principal Rich Read worked together to perform CPR, provide ventilations and used an AED until help arrived.

The American Heartsaver Recognition Program is an initiative supporting the American Heart Association’s efforts to strengthen the Chain of Survival in our communities as part of their impact goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans while reducing death and disability from heart disease and stroke by 20% by the year 2020.

Anyone can learn CPR and know the signs of a stroke.  Visit www.heart.org/handsonlyCPR for a short instructional video on hands-only CPR that could help save a life.

The American Stroke Association suggests remembering the acronym FAST to recall the most common signs of stroke.

F.A.S.T. stands for:

  • Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the mouth lopsided or uneven?
  • Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.