The runners and responders might tell you they were just doing their jobs. Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis would beg to differ.
Special recognition was given Tuesday night to the group of people who came to the aid of a runner who’d been felled by a heart attack in the middle of the city’s first official marathon.
Steve Sloma expressed his gratitude during this week’s City Council meeting, where seven people were recognized for their spontaneous response Nov. 10 during the inaugural Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon.
Sloma, 38, who lives in Geneva, went into cardiac arrest about six miles into the race and was unresponsive when two local nurses also running the course discovered him lying alongside the race route. Their urgent effort to administer emergency first aid quickly brought in several others, including another nurse, a North Central College professor, a medical student and a Park District police officer — who had a portable defibrillator in his vehicle that went into service to restart Sloma’s failing heart.
Puknaitis described Sloma’s prompt revival as a collection of “lifesaving efforts” that pulled him back from the jaws of death.
“Everybody here worked as a team to come to the rescue of Steve,” said Puknaitis, who reported that some 95 percent of those who experience the sort of sudden cardiac arrest that struck Sloma do not survive the trip to the hospital. “He was unconscious, unresponsive, and there is no doubt in my mind ... that he would not be here today if it weren’t for these individuals.”
The chief then pointed out that once he had been resuscitated, Sloma felt so good he wanted to finish the race.
“Our paramedics weren’t going to let you do that, were they?” he said.
Those receiving fire chief citizens’ awards included Yousef Ahmed, Stephanie Chang, Amy Drendel, Traci Iarrobino, Michael Kurinec and Merri Lazenby. All but Drendel were on hand to receive their commendations.
Chang and Iarobbino, who are southwest Naperville neighbors, are Edward Hospital nurses whose lifesaving skills were raised a notch or two that day.
“I’ve done it plenty of times in the hospital, but not outside that setting,” Chang said recently. “I think it all came out OK.”
Asked to comment Tuesday, Sloma was clearly appreciative for the quick response and proficient handling he received when he came near death.
“It’s one thing to know how to do all the things that they know how to do, but it’s another to step up and do it,” he said.
Councilwoman Judith Brodhead couldn’t help but crow a little bit afterward.
“Not only do we have a marathon in Naperville,” she said. “We bring people back to life!”