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Connie Bickford, left, and Debi Mrozowski, right, hold the automated external defibrillator they used at the Park and Recreation department in Wallingford, Feb. 24, 2014. The two women used the AED and administered CPR to a man who collapsed while playing basketball on Sunday, Feb. 23. The man survived his sudden cardiac arrest. | Christopher Zajac / Record-Journal
Signs next to the main doors into the gym at the Park and Recreation Department alert users to the location of an automated external defibrilator in the main office in Wallingford, Feb. 24, 2014. When a 37 year old man collapsed playing basketball Debi Mrozowski tended to him while Connie Bickford retrived the AED. Together they performed CPR and used the AED to help the man surrive the sudden cardiac arrest. | Christopher Zajac / Record-Journal

Wallingford woman saves man’s life at Parks and Recreation basketball game

WALLINGFORD — A life-threatening incident at a local basketball game had a happy ending, thanks to the quick action of two women.

Debi Mrozowski, a secretary at Rock Hill School, was sitting courtside Sunday morning keeping score at a Parks and Recreation Department basketball league game when she heard yells coming from another court about an “unresponsive” man.

“You don’t know how your going to react until you’re thrown into that situation,” Mrozowski said.

A 38-year-old man playing basketball went down and was unresponsive. Mrozowski started CPR and told Connie Bickford to grab the building’s automated external defibrillator. Bickford, whose husband plays in the basketball league, then helped with CPR.

Mrozowski said she remembered yanking the man’s shirt up and placing the pads on him.

“I was focused on what I was doing,” she said. “We took turns doing CPR until the paramedics and fire department arrived.”

Mrozowski said she used the defibrillator three times, and she thinks the paramedics shocked him another two times. Mrozowski said she was told to keep giving CPR while the fire and paramedic crews set up their equipment. When paramedics took over, Mrozowski said she crawled away.

“It was surreal,” Mrozowski said about the moments after the man was taken away by ambulance. “The one thing I remember is the players were thanking us and hugging us.”

Kevin Ridley, a teammate of the victim, praised the women.

“They really went into action fast,” he said.

Mrozowski said the rest of the day was tough, and every time she thought about it, tears came to her eyes.

“I don’t think I fell asleep until 3 a.m. and when I did, I just saw him lying on the ground,” Mrozowski said.

Teammate Kevin Ridley said the man, a Meriden resident, is still in the hospital intensive care unit. Hartford Hospital confirmed that the man is still admitted to the ICU as of Tuesday morning.

“I feel thrilled to know I made a difference in someone’s life,” Mrozowski said. “I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time.

Gawlak said Mrozowski and Bickford will be honored at an upcoming Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. The AED machines are in all the schools in town along with the Parks and Recreation, Gawlak said. The campaign to have the AED defibrillator machines came after a similar incident in 2006 when 17-year-old Mike Papale Jr. was playing basketball and an undiagnosed medical condition caused him to collapse. The Papale family became advocates to have the AED machines available in town. Mrozowski said her husband knew the Papale family growing up.

Wallingford Fire Battalion Chief Edward Butkus said the two women did a “heck of a job” and that their efforts could have been the difference between life and death. “Everyone should be trained on it,” Butkus said about AEDs. “If you get one save out of 100 it still worth doing.”

Butkus said saving lives isn’t like it’s portrayed on television, and the actual percentage of people saved is not that high, but in this case, all the right elements came together.

“It’s what we get paid to do, we are highly trained,” Butkus said. “For a layman to do it, that’s a true hero.”

Butkus said he hopes the incident will encourage people to be trained in using a defibrillator. (203) 317-2225 Twitter: @LaurenSievertRJ

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