At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, at the height of the storm, and with many streets closed to traffic, one resident noticed her neighbor collapsed on the slope of his driveway on Broadway and Second Street. Despite low visibility, she noticed a fire truck parked a block away on the corner of Kelly Parkway and ran over to the driver-side window to alert firefighters that someone had fainted.
“You don’t just faint from shoveling,” said Captain Marcial Pivano, who was sitting in the front passenger seat of Ladder Tower 1 with Stan Rosalsky in the driver’s seat and Dave Greyer in the back. “It went through all of our minds that it’s probably not just a faint.”
The firefighter springing into action first was the one with the lightest clothes – the driver, who was followed closely by Geyer with a defibrillator.
“If that lady didn’t see him, or we were a block farther, who knows what would have happened.” – Captain Marcial Pivano
Through the blanket of snow, Pivano followed the cries. “I heard her yelling ‘over here, over here,’” he said. Rosalsky and Geyer pulled the man onto a dry, flat surface under his porch to perform first aid and CPR. Pivano flagged down what he thought was a McCabe SUV, but it was another firefighter, Rocys Pozo, on his way back from a different call. Now, four firefighters were on the scene.
“I heard Stan say he’s starting to breath on his own,” Pivano said. “Then I see McCabe pull up and I hear the sirens.” Nearly a foot of snow blocked the ambulance access. “Stuck behind the ambulance waiting to get around is a pickup truck with a plow on it.I told him what was happening, and the guy didn’t even say yes or no. He just backed up his truck and blasted the snow out of the way. Then the ambulance was off.”
The entire ordeal lasted under ten minutes. The defibrillator was on for only about six minutes and thirty seconds, according to Pivano.
“This was a right-place-at-the-right-time kind of situation,” Pivano said. “Everything was so snarled up from downed powerlines and unpassable streets. If that lady didn’t see him, or we were a block farther, who knows what would have happened.”
Like shoveling cement
“Every time we have a snowstorm we say this,” said Michael McCabe of McCabe Ambulance Service.“The possibility of people going into cardiac arrest while shoveling rises, especially with this extremely heavy snow. It was like cement that day.”
McCabe’s analysis is borne out in the data. Researchers at the US Nationwide Children’s Hospital recorded 1,647 fatalities from cardiac-related snow shoveling injuries from 1990 to 2006. But in Bayonne, it still feels uncommon.
“This is the first time this has happened in recent memory,” said Bayonne Fire Chief Keith Weaver. “It demonstrates firefighters’ training and abilities to respond to various types of incidents and that sometimes it takes a community effort, neighbors helping neighbors.”
RWJ Barnabas Health recently sent the Bayonne Community News useful tips relevant to health problems that arise from snow shoveling.
Don't lift more than is comfortable. When snow is heavier, you may have to go light on the shovel.
Pace yourself. If you are feeling tired or uncomfortable, take a break. If you experience any pain when shoveling, stop immediately and seek medical assistance.
Be prepared. Stretching before heading outside is a good practice that can help prevent sprains and strains.
Think before you lift. Try pushing rather than lifting the snow and bend with your knees.
Avoid twisting and never toss snow over your shoulder — this motion significantly stresses the back.
Invest in a proper shovel. Purchase a shovel that complements your height and strength level.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.