EMS honored for “Great Save”

"Great Saves" don't happen only on the baseball diamond. They happen every day throughout the Pittsburgh region as EMS professionals and other first response teams save lives by delivering prompt, expert care.

West Penn Allegheny Health System and the Pittsburgh Pirates are teaming up this baseball season to salute local first responders at Pirates games and reunite them with the patients they helped save.

NorthWest EMS was honored at the May 10 game for a "Great Save" of a worker at the Avalon Eat 'n Park who had a heart attack, followed by a lethal heart rhythm called V-Tach, while he was on the job.

Dennis Vrana, 39, was working in the early morning hours of April 19 when he began to feel ill. NorthWest arrived on the scene 6 minutes later and began administering oxygen and aspirin. Vrana developed V-Tach six times and each time was shocked back to a normal heart rhythm.

In 22 minutes, NorthWest had transported Vrana to Allegheny General Hospital, where doctors inserted a stent in one of his coronary arteries.

Honored NorthWest personnel included paramedic Garrett Miller, Chief George Dudash, and EMT Jessica Cappabianco, along with Avalon Police officer Craig Cannella.

The idea for "Great Saves" came from Eric Brader, MD, an emergency medicine physician at AGH. He noticed that patients and first responders would often develop an emotional bond, and began to envision a way of bringing these individuals together.

"Typically, EMS providers, police officers and firefighters are the first to respond to an emergency medical situation involving cardiac arrest, stroke, burns or trauma," said Brader. "Once a patient is transported to the hospital, however, most first responders do not have an opportunity to see that patient again and never know the patient's outcome. Likewise, patients who survive an emergency situation later think about the persons who saved their life. These patients are grateful to be alive and many wish they could personally thank the medical personnel that responded to their medical emergency."

WPAHS and the Pirates will highlight "Great Saves" twice a month at Pirates games this season, including a patient, their family and a first response team. The group will sit together during the game and will be featured on the Jumbotron, and the patient may throw out the first pitch.

"First responders do not get nearly enough recognition for the lifesaving work they do," said Brader. "Great Saves is a way to honor these individuals, while giving former patients and first responders a chance to get to know each other under more pleasant circumstances."

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