Basketball team helps save Princeton man’s life

(l-r) Aijun Li, Sean Nally, Mark Dooley, Tony Anghelone, Raj Vora, Cheng “Rob” Lee, Fred Schenck, Phil Howard, Robert Goldberg, Michael Dibendetto, Moammar Zuriki.

A Princeton man collapsed during a basketball game in South Brunswick and survived thanks to the quick thinking of his fellow basketball players.

Javier, 48, was playing basketball in the men’s over-40 league at South Brunswick High School on Aug. 9 when he started to feel sick. He said he needed to take a break and sit out about 45 minutes into the game. He sat in a chair on the court, then collapsed, slid off the chair, and landed face down on the court.

Players rushed over, including Cheng “Rob” Lee, a volunteer fireman with the Kingston Fire Department. Lee directed Mike Dooley, the site supervisor, to call 911 and told another player to get an AED, also known as an automated external defibrillator, which is used to help people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, a second basketball player, Raj Vora, rolled Javier over and he began to turn purple. Javier was gasping for air with clenched teeth. Vora ran into the hallway to get the AED. Another player, athletic trainer Freddy Schenk, began CPR. Schenck began chest compressions while Lee gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Javier. They applied the AED and it shocked Javier, but he still had no pulse.

About two minutes after the 911 call, South Brunswick Police Officer Sean Nally arrived at the high school. Nally stepped in to continue CPR and another shock was given to Javier with the AED. Within minutes, members of the Monmouth Junction First Aid Squad arrived along with paramedics as lifesaving efforts continued. After several minutes, Javier regained a pulse. As they placed him in the ambulance, Javier became alert and began asking what had happened.

Javier was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where he continues to receive treatment. He said he is thankful for everyone who helped save his life.

“Thanks to the quick actions, training, and knowledge of my fellow players, police officers, and EMS, I get to continue my life and be a husband to my wife and a father to my daughter,” Javier said. “I am eternally grateful for their critical life skills.”

South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said the incident is a reminder of why it is important to learn CPR and have access to an AED. Each year, about 350,000 Americans go into cardiac arrest and only about 10% survive. Studies show that if CPR and defibrillation are applied within the first three minutes, most victims can survive.

“It was split-second actions by the basketball players, Officer Nally, and EMS that saved a father’s life,” Hayducka said. “They only had minutes to act to make a difference. The fact that the South Brunswick School District has invested in AEDs at all the schools made a huge difference.”

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