“I’ve dealt with gangs, with guns, with drugs,” said Sgt. Juan Barrera of the Guttenberg Police Department. “It’s nothing compared with seeing your friend or coworker basically die in your arms.”
Deputy Public Safety Director Joel Magenheimer, formerly the chief of police for the town of Guttenberg, suffered a heart attack at his desk about 9:30 a.m. on March 31. It was the quick action of several coworkers and the skilled response of Weehawken EMS workers that brought him back to life.
“We couldn’t be more thankful to everyone who was involved,” said Magenheimer’s daughter, Janice McConnon, at the Town Council meeting on Monday, April 27, where the rescuers were honored for their life-saving actions.
Magenheimer is currently in rehab and has undergone a full recovery. McConnon attended the ceremony along with her daughters Laura and Emily and her sister Jill Magenheimer.
His heart stopped beating
Barrera works in police headquarters near Magenheimer. The two were chatting as usual when Barrera heard a loud bang.
“I stood up, I went over, and I didn’t see him,” said Barrera. Magenheimer had collapsed and slid under his desk. “I grabbed him, I turned him around, and he was looking at me, just staring at me. So I tried to make him react and then he just went limp.”
Magenheimer had suffered a cardiac arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop. “At that point I called out for an ambulance, medics, and we started administering CPR,” said Barrera.
Magenheimer’s heartbeat stopped and was revived several times before emergency workers could get it stabilized and transfer him to the hospital for treatment.
“Then Weehawken EMS arrived and they had the AED,” recalled Barrera. The automated external defibrillator is a portable device used for administering electrical therapy to the heart. “And they started to shock him. At that point we got a pulse.”
Magenheimer’s heart stopped and started several times within a tense few minutes. “He was shocked like 10 times,” said Barrera.
“A lot of effort went into saving my dad,” added McConnon.
Magenheimer was rushed to Palisades Medical Center, where his heart rate was stabilized, and from there he was flown to Hackensack University Medical Center by helicopter.
Saving lives every day
“I can’t begin to tell you what a feeling it is when you get a call that says your father has collapsed and they’re giving CPR,” McConnon told the audience at the ceremony. “I live 50 miles from here and I drove here thinking that this was the end – I was never going to see my father again. But thanks to these people here… my father is almost 100 percent. He will be coming home soon and we couldn’t be more thankful.”
According to Jill Magenheimer, her father is expected to come home this week or next. “You would never know something happened. He wants out now.”
“He wanted us to break him out to be here today,” said McConnon with a laugh. “He is that same person. He wants to be on that phone calling up, telling everybody what to do, where to be. If we let him come back, tomorrow he’d be at his desk.”
The family expressed their gratitude to the individuals involved in the rescue, as well as the townspeople of Guttenberg. “We’ve had an outpouring of support from the whole town,” said McConnon. “My father asked us to thank everyone.”
Honored at the ceremony were Barrera, DePew, Fay, and Cirri, who were named Officers of the Month for March 2015. Also honored were Lt. Numargo Vazquez, EMT Erika Tavaras, and Captain Gio Ahmad of Weehawken 214 EMS.
“We’re doing this recognition tonight because we all know Joel, and you guys bringing him back and having him still with us was a great thing,” said Mayor Gerald Drasheff. “However, they do this type of work every day. People from the ambulance squad, they respond day after day to Guttenberg to help our residents. They don’t always get this type of recognition but don’t think we don’t appreciate what you do.”
“We see it all the time,” said Barrera. “But when it’s somebody you know and somebody you work with, it’s a whole different ball game.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adela Martinez is Women’s History Month honoree
Former Councilwoman Adela Martinez was honored at the Town Council meeting on April 27 for her service to the community. She received a citation from the county executive, a resolution from the Board of Chosen Freeholders, and a plaque from the town as Guttenberg’s Hudson County Women’s History Month honoree 2015.
The citation read in part, “You have served the people of Guttenberg and Hudson County in community service for many years. In addition, over the years you have had a major impact on the many students which you have taught in your role as professor at New Jersey City University. All of the residents of Guttenberg are proud of your accomplishments and extend their best wishes for success in the future.”
Martinez accepted the award “in the name of all the women of Guttenberg,” stating that “most of the women in Guttenberg, they put in a full day’s work, come back home, and do unpaid hard labor for six or seven hours, and then they find the time to serve the community as volunteers.”
Emergency response volunteers honored
Also honored at the meeting were eight volunteer members of the town’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
“If we’re faced with a major emergency in town – a Sandy incident, a major blackout, a major fire, anything like that – the personnel resources in town, the police, the town staff, are going to be overwhelmed,” said Mayor Gerald Drasheff. “These volunteers are the people who we’ll be calling on to help us out with that. They’ve gotten some basic training in emergency response. For instance if we had to open a shelter in the school because of a major fire, these are the people we would be calling on and relying on to help us to do that.”
Police Investigator Joseph Keselica, who trained the eight individuals, added, “These are a group of citizens that stepped forward and really want to make a difference in the town they live in. They want to better the town.”
The eight CERT residents are Richard Delafuenze, Benjamin Jimenez, Melissa Lazo, Delores Loppe, Juana Malave, Marisol Montanez, Sandra Salazar, and Friederick A. Vialet. The group elected Montanez as incident commander and Salazar as alternate incident commander.
Congrats to two winning sports teams
Two basketball teams also received recognition at the meeting. The seventh grade team won their division championship in the South Bergen Basketball League with an undefeated season. The eighth grade team won their division championship in the South Bergen Basketball League for the second season, and were back-to-back champions of the West New York League.
“It was a pretty tough league and they did a great job,” said Drasheff.
Both teams consist of students from Guttenberg as well as North Bergen. “It’s another example of where we’re working together with an adjacent town and we’re able to offer something that we might not have been able to do by ourselves,” said Drasheff. “I don’t think we had enough kids that we could have fielded a team all by ourselves.”
He added, “One other positive thing that comes out of a program like this: Most of our kids that go to [Anna L] Klein School wind up going to North Bergen High School.”
The kids get to work together as a team and get to know their neighbors, with many of them going on to play together in high school. “And from the looks of this group, the high school’s going to have a pretty good team,” concluded Drasheff.
The Seventh Grade All-Star Team consisted of Kevin Aguilar, Samy Ali, Elijah Aviles, Alfredo Cortinas, Jaleel Fernandez, Hugo Guzman, Jeff Lopez, Kobee Marquez, Xavion Miller, Musleh Nasser, Sebastian Oropesa, Aurel Pasku, Jean Nader Perez, and Johnathan Sanchez. The head coach was Luis Abreu, with assistant coaches Rey Aviles and Freddy Cortinas.
The Eighth Grade All-Star Team consisted of Angel Abreau, Israel Abreu, Joshua Almanzar, Marc Diaz, David Drovet, Kevin Gardner, Sebastian Herrera, Emilio Landa, Enmanuel Martinez, Eddy Merino, Richard Mesa, Sebastian Mosquea, Francisco Paulino, Bryant Pederos, Emerson Perez, Brandon Rodriquez, Dylan Rodriquez, Abdallah Saleh, and Enmanuel Tavares. The head coach was Thomas Hopkins and the assistant coach was Eric Guerrero.