Paul Breault may not have known what was happening to him a couple weeks ago when he was preparing to lead a seminar at Salvatore’s Restaurant in downtown Andover.
But now he will never forget the woman being credited with saving his life that afternoon.
The 65-year-old Nashua, N.H., man went into cardiac arrest and collapsed while setting up to give a presentation on Social Security at Salvatore’s on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Luckily, Marcie Martellucci, a veteran of the restaurant industry who has been a manager at Salvatore’s for the past five years, was on duty that afternoon.
Martellucci, who was summoned to the back room of the restaurant by one of the servers, found Breault lying on the floor. He wasn’t breathing and he didn’t have a pulse.
As staff called 911, Martellucci enlisted the help of one of the restaurant’s patrons.
“He came over and we administered CPR until police, fire and ambulance got there,” Martellucci said.
Joe Santaniello, who co-owns an Exeter, N.H.-based financial services firm with Breault, was arriving on the scene just as the incident unfolded.
“When I came, the fire trucks had gone by, an ambulance had gone by. I walked in, and there was my partner on the floor,” Santaniello said. “I said, ‘Oh please, dear Lord, help him.’”
Once emergency response crews arrived, they used an automatic external defibrillator to shock Breault and get him breathing again, Fire Chief Mike Mansfield said.
Breault, who is now recovering from double-bypass surgery, said all he remembers is carrying boxes and the next thing he knew, he was in a hospital bed. Someone had to tell him how Martellucci had come to his aid.
“I don’t even remember her doing it, but I know she did it,” he said. “This woman saved my life.”
Breault, who had yet to meet Martellucci as of late last week, said he intended to personally thank her for her actions when he was back on his feet.
“Are you kidding me? I can’t wait to see her,” he said. “When I get better — because I can’t go out right now — when I have my first moment, I’ll see her.”
Martellucci deflected the praise, instead highlighting the speedy emergency response by the police and fire departments as the key factor in the situation.
“It didn’t even cross my mind. I just ran right over and wanted to make sure he was OK and make sure where he was,” she said. “There were no questions asked. It was time to do it.”
But Mansfield said Martellucci is the real hero.
“The bottom line is the sooner the patient who is in distress gets any type of medical care or intervention, along the way of manual compressions or breathing, they’re going to increase the person’s chance for survival,” he said.
After a person goes down, every minute that passes shaves 10 percent off of the person’s odds of surviving the incident, Mansfield said.
Police and fire crews took four minutes to get to the restaurant. It was a fast response, but it would have given Breault a 60 percent chance at life — had Martellucci not acted immediately, he said.
“She needs to be commended,” Mansfield said. “Most people in that situation wouldn’t know what to do and certainly wouldn’t step in to intervene.”
Martellucci, however, isn’t “most people.” Past experience helped her gain the awareness to respond, she said.
A few years ago while working at the Salvatore’s location in Lawrence, Martellucci recalled another manager going through a similar situation.
“Watching another general manager go and take the actions to try to save somebody, it just turned around and made me realize how to handle it,” she said.
Martellucci said she also benefited by the choke and CPR training provided through the restaurant — tools she never thought she would use, but that ended up proving critical.
Local restaurants and businesses interested in providing similar CPR training to their employees can contact the Andover Police and Fire departments for courses, Mansfield said. The American Red Cross and American Heart Association offer training programs as well, he said.