September 26, 2009
Nurse saves heart-attack victim at gym
Frank Schmidt of Mahopac on Friday thanks Juliet Hernandez, right, a nurse in the
intensive-care unit at Westchester Medical Center, for saving his life after he had a
heart attack Tuesday at New York Sports Club in Somers. Schmidt and his wife
celebrated their 49th anniversary Friday. (Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News)
VALHALLA - To Juliet Hernandez it was a day at the office. To Frank Schmidt it was nothing
short of a miracle.
The 71-year-old Mahopac resident credits Hernandez, a cardiac nurse at Westchester Medical
Center, with saving his life Tuesday when he had a heart attack and collapsed at a Somers
His doctors agree - were it not for Hernandez and two trainers at New York Sports Club, the
retired telephone company worker would not be alive to celebrate his 49th wedding anniversary
"I guess that was magic," Schmidt said. "That's the only word. It's a miracle."
"I mean, what do you say?" he added. "What do you say to people that saved your life?"
What Schmidt said was "thank you," as he gathered at the Valhalla hospital with Hernandez, the
two trainers and his family during a news conference Friday.
"I just did what I was trained to do, and I did it the way I remembered, the way we normally
would do it here if I was in the unit," Hernandez said. "I'm just happy that he's back with his
family. He's a good guy. He's a really nice guy."
Dr. Martin Cohen, Schmidt's cardiologist, said he had an angioplasty about 10 years ago, and
had fully recovered then. Cohen said Schmidt should do so again.
But he left no doubt his patient had been quite fortunate.
"There was the opportunity for everything to go terribly and everything to go wrong," he said.
"And he just happened to be in the right place. If they didn't have the automatic defibrillator, he
would have passed away from this."
Schmidt, a former emergency medical technician, said he worked for AT&T for 30 years before
retiring, and has worked for the company as a private contractor for nearly 20 years.
He's also a fitness buff, and said he worked out at the Somers club four or five times a week,
and is also an avid runner - he's run 10K races. On Tuesday, he said, he was feeling "a little
funky" while bench-pressing 170 pounds, then simply blacked out and collapsed.
Two trainers, Deborah Maher and Melanie Scala, came to his aid. Maher, a Mahopac resident,
provided mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while Scala, of Cortlandt, grabbed the defibrillator .
Hernandez, seeing the commotion, started CPR.
"I was starting my usual routine when I saw Debbie running towards the other side of the gym
and asking someone to call 911," Hernandez said. "I got up and I went to see what was
happening, and I saw Frank sitting there in the machine. He was in cardiac arrest. His face was
Schmidt's wife, Dorothy, was shopping nearby, and on the verge of driving home a woman she
had met so she would not need to wait for a bus.
That's when her cell phone rang, and she rushed to the gym. Before long, her husband was at
the medical center and in emergency heart surgery. Cohen said Schmidt suffered an 80 percent
to 90 percent blockage of the main artery on the left side of his heart.
Dorothy Schmidt calls it "a new lease on life. We're starting our second 49 years together."
His doctors tell Schmidt he should make a full recovery, and will be able to resume his workouts
at the gym soon enough.
And that's good news for Schmidt - and his new friends.
"I want to say, if you're going to have a heart attack, have it in a gym next to a cardiac nurse and
be close to Westchester Medical Center," Schmidt quipped.
"It's like miracles all over the place," he said. "I got my brother here, my daughter, my grandson
Max. I can see him again. I can argue with my brother. Thank you. Thank you."