Man Saved After Suddenly Collapsing During Basketball Game by Fire Chief and Lifeguard

Orland Fire Battalion Chief Nick Cinquepalmi and 17-year-old Jake Pechukas worked together to help a 32-year-old man who had a heart attack on a basketball court Sunday.


Swift teamwork between an Orland Fire Protection District battalion chief and an Orland Park Sportsplex staff member helped save the life of a 32-year-old Orland Hills man who had a heart attack Sunday.

Orland Fire Battalion Chief Nick Cinquepalmi stopped by the Sportsplex around 4:30 p.m. Sunday to watch his son play basketball with the Orland Youth Association, according to a release from the fire district. Around then, two men quickly approached Cinquepalmi, who was in uniform and on call at the time, asking for his help, Cinquepalmi said.

“I was expecting a broken ankle, but this young man was clearly going into cardiac arrest,” Cinquepalmi said. “He was down on the ground, unconscious.”

With an ambulance on the way, Cinquepalmi began CPR on the man, and 17-year-old Jake Pechukas, a staff member at the Sportsplex and lifeguard at Centennial Pool, approached to help. While Cinquepalmi had an Automated External Defibrillator unit in his car, Pechukas told him that one was available inside the complex and he retrieved it, Cinquepalmi said.

“He helped set up the AED while I gave compressions,” Cinquepalmi said. “I gave him one shock from the AED, continued with compressions and after about a minute he regained consciousness, and asked where he was. Having that AED inside the complex saved his life, no doubt.”

Orland Fire Battalion Chief Raymond Kay introduced a new community program built around increasing CPR instruction, and adding to the number of accessible AED units around the community, at the Jan. 18 Orland Fire Protection District board meeting.

Orland Fire Chief Ken Brucki said in the release that the Sportsplex incident demonstrates the need for accessible AEDs.

“Incidents involving cardiac issues can be unpredictable and the faster you can provide assistance the better the chances of survival,” Brucki said in the release.

The man, who had no medical history of heart issues, is now recovering from the heart attack. He lost teeth when he fell and hit the ground, according to the district.

Cinquepalmi praised both Pechukas’ speed and his communication throughout the effort.

“Jake worked extremely fast,” Cinquepalmi said about Pechukas. “But he also showed discipline from training. The lifeguards are taught to call out what they are doing and what’s happening, and he put that into practice. He did a great job putting together the AED while I did what I needed to do.”

Cinquepalmi encouraged people to become trained in CPR and AED use in case of an incident, and urged people not to be afraid of assisting someone in a similar situation.

“It could be your son or daughter,” Cinquepalmi said. “As far as I’m concerned, don’t be afraid to step up. You won’t do more damage than has been done.”

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Jeneen Kateeb February 15, 2013 at 05:01 AM
Yes.... We would love the opportunity to meet and thank him. Fortunately, he made it through that situation and he underwent open heart surgery today. He had a double bypass and just came out of surgery late this evening. Maybe we can communicate through e-mail and exchange numbers.
Dawn Pechukas February 15, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Wow...so glad he made it through the surgery! So young to have endured so much... Hopefully, he is on the road to recovery now. Thank you for the update as we (especially Jake) were wondering how he was doing. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.
Lynn Lionhood February 15, 2013 at 08:15 PM
I am so proud to see two great young men, Nick and Jake step up like a well oiled team and save yet another young man. You are both my heroes as well. Only hope when I am in need that both of you are near.
Ben Feldheim February 16, 2013 at 06:13 PM
Jeneen, thanks a lot for sharing this. We'll be pulling for him.
Patch Reader February 18, 2013 at 05:51 AM
What an amazing story. That young boy will do very well in life.


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