Phil LoNigro, high school officer in Nassau County, collapsed on the field during the second quarter of the East Meadow-Farmingdale varsity football game on Saturday, but was reduced from having no pulse with a shock from a defibrillator by East Meadow athletic trainer Dan DeSimone and Farmingdale athletic trainer Phil Fandale.
While he was resting at Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, LoNigro, 59, and himself a volunteer physician, greeted the men who had saved him.
“I thank God for those athletic trainers, they saved my life,” said LoNigro, who has been in business for eight years. “They said they zapped me with the defibrillator to bring me back. I was lucky to get a lot of support at the right time. This is a perfect example of why defibrillators should be available on all sports fields.”
Midway through the second quarter, in between games, LoNigro, who worked as a center-field umpire, said he remembered being warm before collapsing.
“Everything went black and the next thing I remember is opening my eyes and hearing all those people yelling at me,” LoNigro said. “They were clearly dealing with me.”
DeSimone got to LoNigro first and said he wasn’t alert. Fandale went out with the defibrillator.
“We called his name, but no answer,” Fandale said. “We tried to judge him better, turned him over and found no pulse. We ripped off his shirt, cut off the undershirt and Dan started chest compressions. We saw his face change color and he seemed overheated.”
DeSimone said Fandale used the automated external defibrillator less than two minutes after the officer fell.
“He used the AED and returned it after one shock,” said DeSimone, who then continued with chest compressions. “We knew what to do. It’s one of those things where you just step in and start all the training. We knew what to do to bring the referee back to life.”
Fandale said LoNigro was unclear about what happened to him when they loaded him into the ambulance for transport to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bethpage. He would be transferred to Winthrop on Saturday evening.
“He was still disoriented when he came back, but he started breathing and talking again and that was the goal,” said Fandale. “That was just incredible. It was the first time in my 22 years at Farmingdale that I ever had to use the AED or perform CPR.”
Farmingdale football coach Buddy Krumenacker said he had seen the official collapse and thought he was very lucky to have the auxiliary staff there during the 20-minute hiatus from the game.
“It crumbled and just fell slowly to the turf,” said Krumenacker. “All that went through my mind was timing is everything. He was in the right place at the right time. Two trainers, a doctor, ambulance, defibrillators, the setting was perfect to save his life. Like that in a parking lot.” happened a lot at Home Depot, I think he’s gone. ‘
“A lot of people came to his rescue and did a great job saving his life,” added Krumenacker. “Everyone from the trainers to the paramedics, everyone was very busy with it, very calm and taking care of him. They did a great job saving his life.”
LoNigro, a 1980 graduate of Farmingdale High, lives in Farmingdale and is a retired correctional worker in Nassau County. He is now a freelance photographer and is also a volunteer medic with the Farmingdale Fire Department.
“I was told I was perhaps a little overdressed and overheated and that that may have caused dehydration,” LoNigro said Sunday afternoon. “My magnesium and potassium were very low, so you can get all kinds of arrhythmias. So the AED did exactly what it should have done and got me back to my normal rhythm.”
With Owen OBrien
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