Following Todd’s accident, I suspected that simply asking “What are the ratios?” had indicated to our dispatcher that I was familiar with CPR. And because of that baseline, it didn’t take much to get me to go.
Bonafoux later confirmed that hunch. He was the voice on the other end of the line, who walked us out of the depths of what Lex and I have taken to calling the Bad Night. “Muscle memory,” he said. “Once you have done it before, you remember it. Your brain starts remembering it. Your body remembers how to do it. That all contributed to the success of your father-in-law.”
The first responders, a paramedic team, arrived on the scene at 7:44:55 p.m., followed by the engine company, an FDNY lieutenant, and basic and advanced life-support units.
“From the time that the call comes in to the time that somebody is actually standing there, a professional provider, is [about] four minutes,” Fazzino told me over the phone, as he paged through our case file. The “real magic,” he said, is in that response time.
I remember a paramedic from the first unit crouching beside me, slinging a life-support bag off her shoulder and asking how long I’d been going at it, before relieving me. “Would you have guessed that was, you know, two and a half minutes of CPR you did?” Fazzino asked. “You get that serious fight-or-flight adrenaline rush. Your sense is enhanced. It becomes very surreal.” What felt like an eternity was really 150 seconds.
By 8 p.m., Todd had been shocked seven times with a portable defibrillator—typical, Fazzino said, for ventricular fibrillation, the kind of electrical disturbance of the heart that Todd experienced. Responders, now numbering at least a half-dozen, ran Todd’s electrocardiogram. That included the multiple defibrillation attempts, medications administered, and intubation.
Start to finish, the event clocked in at about 35 minutes, on par for this type of resuscitative effort in the field. Total call duration, including the T-CPR? Six minutes.
By 8:20 p.m., Todd was loaded into an ambulance. Lex and I got into a second ambulance, which followed closely as our caravan sped toward NYU Langone, the nearest hospital, about 10 minutes away. Port Authority officials temporarily halted Queens-Midtown tunnel traffic to allow us to slip through. I remember the lights streaking past our windows.
Todd was shocked an eighth time after being reeled into the emergency room. A long night was still ahead of us. But he now had a pulse—a testament to the help we’d gotten in those crucial first moments.
Without T-CPR, “God forbid, what could have happened to your father-in-law?” asked Democratic Representative Norma Torres of California. “You wouldn’t have had somebody talking you through that.”
Torres, a former 911 operator in Los Angeles, is the lead sponsor of the 911 SAVES Act, a bipartisan bill that aims to reclassify 911 operators and other public-safety telecommunicators as “protective service occupations” under the Office of Management and Budget’s Standard Occupational Classification System. As it stands, dispatchers like Bonafoux are classified more as office secretaries. Torres wants to change that federal labor designation—with no disrespect to secretarial workers, she said—to encourage states to recognize dispatchers as crucial workers, recognition that in some states could exempt them from government furlough. Without dispatchers, Torres said, “we can’t get the help that we need.”