NJ mom wants more defibrillators in courthouses after husband’s death
Amy Vasquez said it was the dream of her husband, Peter Fiorentino, to be a father. Their daughter Marcy, who is now 14, was his dream come true.
But Fiorentino never got to see Marcy grow up. In 2011, when the girl was only 3, Fiorentino — who made a living as an attorney — collapsed at a New Jersey courthouse while waiting to try a case.
He never regained consciousness after suffering that cardiac arrest and died at a hospital four days later.
Vasquez said a defibrillator was on the premises and was used to try to revive her husband, but it didn't get to him in time.
"I believe that if there had been a defibrillator that was closer to where Pete was in the courthouse, that he would be alive today," she said.
So Vasquez is advocating for defibrillators to be placed on each floor of courthouses in all 21 New Jersey counties.
She has the backing of the New Jersey State Bar Association, for which she serves on the board of trustees, and which so far has received responses back from two-thirds of those counties, all favorable.
"This is a priority, this is something that needs to be taken seriously, and we are fortunate to have Amy reminding us on a daily basis that this is a cause that the New Jersey State Bar Association needs to champion," Jeralyn Lawrence, NJSBA president, said.
Some counties, such as Essex and Mercer, say they agree with Vasquez's request. Others like Cumberland say they are reviewing what their current plan is, and what it will be in the future.
Others have gone farther. Atlantic has provided NJSBA with photos of its equipment, Bergen says it has provided "significant access" to its "well-maintained" devices, according to Lawrence, and Cape May not only has the requisite number of defibrillators but has also trained sheriff's officers on how to use them.
Lawrence said sudden cardiac arrest remains the leading cause of death in the United States, and so even though not all counties have responded, what those that have so far are doing represents progress — but more can be done.
"Not only have them on every floor, have appropriate signage so everybody knows where these devices are located in the time of need and time of crisis, and appropriate training," she said.
Vasquez said every person who enters a courthouse, for whatever reason they do, is under an "enormous amount of stress," perhaps even more so now given the continued clearing of a COVID-19 backlog.
Having life-saving devices at the ready, then, seems like something everyone can get behind.
"Every minute counts when it comes to using a defibrillator. Every second counts. And this will save lives," Vasquez said.
Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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