VIDEO: A reunion that tugs on your heartstrings

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On Thursday, February 15, Cabarrus County EMS celebrated the lives of those resuscitated after an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and the communicators, first responders, EMTs, paramedics, nurses and doctors who helped change their lives.

More than 300 community members filled The Laureate Center at Kannapolis City Hall for the fifth annual Hearts and Heroes event to pay tribute to the pit-crew type approach used on cardiac arrest patients that saved 25 lives in Cabarrus County in 2017.

Using this pit-crew approach, all agencies in Cabarrus responsible for response to cardiac events, have very defined roles. From the civilian who begins hands-only CPR to the telecommunicator who dispatches EMS to the paramedic who transports the patient to the emergency department, every agency has specific responsibilities for the continuity of care.

In 2017, this approach resulted in 92 percent Utstein return of spontaneous circulation and 55 percent Utstein survival. Utstein is a set of guidelines for uniform reporting of cardiac arrest across multidiscipline. The national average is about 10 percent.

Even though all the steps in the continuity of care are vital for survival, one common step in the survival chain stood out—a friend, family member or stranger started CPR immediately.

Keynote speaker Chris Goenner, is a paramedic trainer who was saved by the methods he teaches to students. While taking a break after a call for service during his tenure at Cabarrus County EMS, Goenner’s heart stopped beating.

“I’m here because my peers, who are sitting in front of me, did CPR.” Goenner said. “I can be a husband to my wife and a father to my sons because of them. The survivors who are with us today are here because someone started CPR. We all can help save a life.”

During the event, attendees also viewed a video detailing the story of Kannapolis resident David Rozenberg, who went into sudden cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance while being transported to the hospital for chest pains.

The incident occurred on Mother’s Day. Cabarrus County EMS Paramedic John Cooper was in the back of the ambulance with Rozenberg, while former EMT Jaclyn Ervolino was driving.

Cooper and Rozenberg were talking when Rozenberg suddenly screamed and grabbed his jaw, Cooper recalled. “He stopped breathing,” Cooper said in his video interview. “His heart stopped. He lost his pulse. He went into a complete cardiac arrest right there in front of me.”

Ervolino, who’s now a nurse in Florida, pulled the ambulance to the side of the road and jumped in the back of the ambulance to begin CPR while Cooper prepared the defibrillator.

Their efforts, along with help from Kannapolis Fire Department first responders, helped save Rozenberg's life.

“It was … unbelievable,” Ervolino said in the video.

After open heart surgery, Rozenberg returned home for a lengthy recovery. During that time he was served as part of the Cabarrus County EMS Community Paramedic program.

“To have been the first people there with him when things started … and then to see him after and be able to continue that, it just felt like a full circle,” said Community Paramedic Ann Coffey.

Cabarrus County EMS Chief Alan Thompson was also recognized at the event. Thompson, who retires after 30 years of service in March, played a pivotal role in the development and success of the pit-crew style approach to cardiac arrest care.

For more information about Hearts and Heroes, visit

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