PATERSON, N.J. — It’s usually a Paterson fire engine or ambulance that Beth Fournier climbs from to save a life.
Last fall, it was an elliptical machine.
With 10 minutes to spare before she had to pick up her son after an off-duty workout, Fournier of Pequannock noticed “a whole bunch of commotion” by the treadmills at Spa 23 in Pompton Plains.
A middle-aged man had fallen down and lay unconscious on the machine.
Someone had applied AED pads to his chest, but the shocks wouldn't have worked the way he was positioned, Fournier said.
What followed was a race against time, without a second to spare.
“I laid him out straight on the floor and applied the shocks, then single-person CPR,” Fournier recalled.
In rhythmic fashion, she repeatedly pushed both hands into into the 57-year-old victim’s chest, kick-starting his still heart.
Minutes later, he came to.
“I’m used to performing CPR on patients going to the hospital with other paramedics,” said the 13-year firefighter, who delivers stuffed animals to sick children every Christmas .
“Being there by myself, I had no concept of when EMS would be there," she said. "I just knew I had to keep doing something until someone else showed up to help.”
The New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association will honor Fournier with a special "Lifesaving" citation during its annual Valor Awards dinner at the Pines Manor in Edison on April 23.
It's rare for Fournier to hear from patients once she drops them at the hospital. Hearing from Hawkins made the save all the more special.
“When a patient reaches out to me, that’s when I get emotional," she said.
The victim, 57-year-old Ed Hawkins of Little Falls, sent his hero an email a month later. He'd had quadruple bypass surgery and was on the road to recovery.
"I'm doing very well," Hawkins told Daily Voice. "Without [Fournier's] quick thinking I wouldn't be able to say that."
He says he's back to doing everything he did before the heart attack — but better.
"[Fournier] and her family will be in my prayers always," he said. "She certainly was an enormous blessing in mine."
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