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Cardiac arrest victim meets his rescuers

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Corolla lifeguards and emergency medical technicians from Currituck Fire-EMS band together to rescue people in ocean and beach emergencies.

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From staff reports

Monday, June 24, 2019

COROLLA — A Maryland man recently rescued by Corolla Ocean Rescue and Currituck County Fire-EMS returned to the beach late last week to thank his rescuers in person.

Tim Riley, deputy chief of Currituck County Fire and EMS, said Todd Lebowitz, 49, came back to Currituck on Friday because he wanted to say thanks to the people who saved his life.

Riley said Lebowitz's family accompanied him to the get-together with the entire Corolla Ocean Rescue team, who were all present because Friday is a training day for them.

"He introduced his family, and said 'this is my wife and these are our three children,'" Riley said. "And then he said, 'you didn't just save my life, you saved all of their lives.' So that really meant a lot."

Riley also spoke briefly at Friday's gathering, thanking the lifeguards and emergency medical technicians on hand for working together to help save Lebowitz's life.

Friday's reunion was a less-intense affair than the last time the rescuers and Lebowitz were together.

According to Riley, Corolla Ocean Rescue received a report about 1:37 p.m. on June 15 that a swimmer appeared to be in cardiac arrest near the bath house ramp.

Corolla Beach Rescue lifeguards removed the swimmer, later identified as Lebowitz, from the water and immediately started CPR on him. They also began using an automatic external defibrillator on him. The device uses electric shocks to stop cardiac arrhythmias, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm.

When Currituck County Fire-EMS personnel arrived, they immediately administered advance life support to Lebowitz. According to Riley, his pulse returned after 17 minutes of rescuers' efforts. He was then airlifted to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital by Dare County Med-Flight. After his condition steadily improved at the hospital, he was discharged on Tuesday.

"The hospital called it 'a miracle recovery,'" Riley said.

Lebowitz was the second swimmer saved from cardiac arrest by Currituck rescuers this year. The first was a 37-year-old man from New York who fell unconscious while swimming in the ocean. After the man's fiancée and bystanders removed him from the water, they started CPR on him, continuing until Currituck County Fire-EMS arrived. After Fire-EMS began administering advanced life support to the man, he was resuscitated within 15 minutes. The man was discharged from the hospital five days later.

Currituck Fire-EMS is proud of its lifesaving efforts, Riley said. Since May 12, 2018, five of 13 people who've suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrest while vacationing in Corolla have survived — a 38 percent success rate. The average success rate nationally is 30 percent, he said.

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