Everyday heroes

July 10, 2018 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

Margie Gantz, foreground, an advanced EMT with Penn State Health Life Lion EMS, and Life Lion paramedic Mike Pribila pull a gurney with a patient. Margie, a blonde woman with glasses, is wearing a white shirt with a Penn State Hershey Emergency Medicine badge on it. Mike is wearing blue sunglasses. The patient’s face is covered by a hooded jacket.

Margie Gantz, foreground, an advanced EMT with Penn State Health Life Lion EMS, and Life Lion paramedic Mike Pribila transport a patient to the Emergency Department at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

By Lisa Maresca

Not all heroes wear capes.

Some wear shirts, professional cargo pants, a utility belt and boots—the uniform of an emergency medicine technician (EMT).

It was a typical day in late February for Margie Gantz, an EMT with Life Lion EMS, when she came across an extraordinary scene.

Making her third trip to Lowe’s that day while working on a house flip, Gantz came across a man in the parking lot slumped over his steering wheel. Without hesitation, she took action.

Right time, right place.

Riding along with Life Lion EMS - Penn State Health

View photos of the Life Lion team in action on the Medical Center’s Flickr page.

“It was a terrible day, really cold conditions,” recalled Gantz. “I couldn’t see right away what happened. When I came upon him, I thought he had stopped to let pedestrians cross. It wasn’t until I went around him that I saw him slumped.”

Gantz banged on the window but got no response. She quickly directed another passerby to call 911. Together, she and another man broke the car window and were able to pull the man, who had gone into cardiac arrest and was not breathing or moving, onto the pavement to start CPR.

The CPR Gantz performed saved his life that day.

“I just did what I had to do.”

Looking back on the experience, Gantz says it was somewhat surreal, but “proof that CPR works.”

She would later learn from Lowe’s parking lot cameras that the man lay slumped in that position for nearly two minutes while other people walked by.

Gantz wants everyone to know that awareness is key. “People need to be aware of what’s going on around them. They walked right by him never noticing he was unresponsive and slumped over. I was aware something wasn’t right,” she said.

For her efforts, Gantz was nominated for the American Heart Association HeartSaver Hero Award as well as the Inspire Award for exemplifying the RITE (Respect, Integrity, Teamwork and Excellence) values by Frank Banfer, manager of the Resuscitation Sciences Training Center at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where Margie also works.

But she did not tell her story to receive awards.

“I just want to teach everyone CPR. This nomination is a vehicle for me to get the word out there to promote CPR. It can make all the difference for you, your family, a friend or a stranger.”

That man, who suffered an electrical problem with his heart, now has a pacemaker and is back to his everyday life.

“I truly believe that I’m just a set of hands helping out.”

Gantz, who has been with Life Lion since 2005 and certified in CPR for 28 years, says being an EMT is not always easy but it is always worth it. According to the American Heart Association, almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die.

“There are days you go home and you don’t have that save, but when you do it reinforces why what we do matter.”

Amber Lewis also knows a thing or two about being in the right place at the right time.

Lewis, an EMT with Life Lion EMS since 2008, was assigned to transport a husband and wife back to their home after they were discharged from the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Admitted to the hospital in late February, the elderly couple were on the verge of losing their home. The heat and electricity were turned off in their home, and they appeared in disarray. When it was time for them to be discharged, the man refused to go home and spend another night in the cold. The emergency department nurse called the propane company that the couple used to confirm that gas was delivered.

When Lewis and her partner, Mike Pribila, got the call to transport the couple home, they were briefed on the situation. During the ride to their house, Lewis sat and spoke with the man. Teary-eyed, the veteran told her they could not be without heat any longer. Lewis was sympathetic.

“I told him if we get there and the company did not deliver the propane, we won’t leave you. We’ll make sure you have a place to go.”

As it turned out, the propane had been delivered but not set up. Pribila turned on the propane tanks and adjusted the thermostats.

Lewis and Pribila didn’t stop there though. When they looked in the refrigerator, they saw some Meals on Wheels dinners that were still good but not much else. So, they went to the grocery store for the couple. They even helped look for the man’s lost van key although it was dark outside.

“I would do this for anybody,” said Lewis. “I look at every patient as if they were my own family member. We couldn’t leave them there.”

The couple wants to move into assisted living but didn’t know where to turn.

“Their kids live far away, and they don’t have any help,” Lewis explained. “We assured them we would help.” She told them they’d make sure someone was going to check on them to help them manage their bills, food and heat.

To that end, a few days after she left the couple, Lewis put a call into the Community Paramedicine team to do follow-up with the patient. The team is a relatively new group of specially trained paramedics who work with patients that have been discharged to prevent readmission. The team is now assisting these patients to meet any immediate needs they might have. The Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging is working on placing the couple that Lewis and Pribila helped in a nursing facility.

“I am a firm believer that all patients should be treated like you would want your loved ones treated,” said Lewis. “That’s all we did that night.

“Not every call is a pleasant one, but I feel good knowing that I can comfort someone in their time of need,” she summed up. “I can help them in the worst moment of their life. It’s just about having compassion.”

Amber Lewis, left, an EMT with Penn State Health Life Lion EMS, and paramedic Dave Heim sit in the back of a Life Lion ambulance at night. The doors of the ambulance are open, and the ambulance is in a parking lot. Amber is writing on a notepad, and Mike adds supplies to a medical kit. Another medical kit is lying on a gurney between them.

Amber Lewis, left, an EMT with Penn State Health Life Lion EMS, and paramedic Dave Heim prepare for their next call.

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