BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — A bartender was being hailed as a hero Thursday, after a life-or-death situation in the middle of a busy restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the bartender was there when the victim – who suffered a heart attack – returned with the life savers.
“It’s just like turning off a light switch — you don’t exist no more,” said John Simon. “Then all of a sudden you turn it back on.”
Simon was talking about the time last month when he nearly died at Ralph ‘n’ Rich’s restaurant in downtown Bridgeport.
One moment, he was finishing a pleasant meal, the next he was unconscious.
“He was completely out – out of it, like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t think he’s going to make it,’” said waitress Tanya Saravia.
It was 8 p.m. on a Saturday. Simon had just received his check and he told his wife, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
Simon’s wife thought he was kidding, but indeed he was not. He slumped forward, and she got up to call 911 as he fell to the floor.
Everyone who saw it believed Simon was dead.
“I see, like, a dead body on the floor,” Saravia said.
But the bartender knew what to do. Saayied Halabi took a summer CPR course at Bridgeport Hospital, and he and a customer who is a nurse’s aide went to work.
“He turned pale,” Halabi said. “And as I was doing the compressions and the blood was circulated to the body, then the blood came back to the skin.”
Halabi and the customer had a full audience for the save.
“I just went to my customers and I said, ‘Please, let’s just put our prayers together,’ and we were all like praying and praying,” Saravia said.
“And that’s when he came back and gasped for air,” Halabi said.
The staff and customers were thrilled.
“People were cheering, when the EMT’s went out. People were saying prayers,” said restaurant co-owner Richard Ndini.
All of a sudden he was like; I was like, ‘He’s doing OK, he’s doing OK,’” Saravia said.
The ambulance team got there about 10 minutes after Simon went down, took over CPR, and used a defibrillator to stabilize his heartbeat. Halabi immediately recognized one of the men.
“I’m there doing real compressions. He walks in and I notice him, and I’m like, there’s my teacher,” he said.
Halabi’s teacher, Carter DeMarco, was proud of his student’s work.
“Fantastic — I think I’d give him an A for this one,” DeMarco said.
And patient Simon was grateful to them all.
“They deserve all the credit. They’re the heroes,” he said.
Simon has been through two surgeries and is now undergoing rehab. Doctors say the type of heart attack he experienced has a roughly 3 percent survival rate.