Reunited: NJ cardiac arrest survivors and the people who saved them
Anthony Sapienza went into cardiac arrest when he was driving to work on Route 295 in July 2017.
The Gloucester County resident passed out and crossed multiple lanes before crashing into two guardrails.
"They say when they pulled me out of the car, I didn't have a pulse," Sapienza said.
As luck would have it, a few medical experts — including an off-duty EMT and an off-duty nurse — were driving by at the time and started attempts to resuscitate Sapienza before paramedics from Virtua Emergency Medical Services would arrive.
"We continued CPR and provided the IVs, the cardiac medication, the intubation and defibrillation for him," said Michael Beringer, a staff paramedic.
He and colleague Edward Carey worked their magic and found a pulse en route to the hospital.
"I was one of the very fortunate ones. There was no heart damage or brain damage," Sapienza said. "I had no heart condition thereafter. I was given a pacemaker and defibrillator."
And two weeks after the rescue, Sapienza was in Mexico to walk his daughter down the aisle.
"I believe that God put everyone that was involved that day in my path," Sapienza said.
Sapienza had a chance to meet his unsung heroes, as he describes them, at a dinner for cardiac arrest survivors, hosted by Virtua.
"The purpose of the dinner is to celebrate patients' survival, honor their first responders, and reunite patients with their rescuers," said Anthony Cascio, director of quality, education and training for Virtua EMS.
Sapienza attended the event with his wife and daughter. It was the first time since the incident he could came face to face with Beringer and Carey, and bystander Jessika Foy.
"It was emotional for everybody," Beringer said.
"It's very rewarding because very rarely do we get to find out all the details of what happened to a patient after we get done at the hospital," Carey said.
Sapienza's uplifting story is one of many. Virtua invited 20 survivors to the dinner; six attended.
Cascio said the EMS team handles close to 1,000 cardiac arrests per year.