Posted on 06/15/2008

 Roman Matlaga Receives First Ever ‘People Saving People™ Award’ 

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation presented its inaugural People Saving People™ (PSP) Award on June 15 in Las Vegas. The annual award program honors ‘ordinary’ people with extraordinary heroic spirits, who help save the lives of victims of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The Foundation proudly recognized Roman Matlaga, of Honesdale, PA, whose actions made the difference between life and death for fellow basketball player David Belkin, of Bethesda, MD, in February 2007. The PSP award was presented during the Citizen CPR Foundation’s biennial conference, Emergency Cardiac Care Update. 

“It is an honor to present the first-ever “People Saving People™ award to Roman Matlaga,” said Mary Newman, SCA Foundation president. “Bystander action is critically important in cases of sudden cardiac death because time is of the essence. A matter of seconds separates those who live from those who will die. We hope this award will bring attention to the fact that anyone—and everyone—must be prepared to help save a life.” 

Located 30 miles northwest of Scranton, Lakeside Elementary is within the Wayne Highlands School District of Honesdale, PA, where officials have outfitted all district schools with automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Belkin, 65, collapsed during a basketball game in the Lakeside school gym on a Sunday morning in mid-February, 2007. Matlaga and his teammates sprang to action immediately, starting CPR and making quick use of the school’s AED. After a combination of chest compressions, rescue breathing and one AED shock, Belkin awoke and asked, “Did we win?”

Although Matlaga is an emergency physician, he stresses that it doesn’t take a doctor to save a life. “Any one of my teammates could have taken charge of the situation,” he says.  “Everyone needs to be prepared to take initiative—you never know when something like this will happen.” 

Others recognized for their lifesaving actions were Eleanor Liebowitz, of Huntington Station, NY, who saved her husband Jerome, by calling 911 and following cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructions from dispatchers, and Susie Gibbs, of Humeston, IA, who saved her husband, Butch, by giving CPR and using an AED. read more

On July 6th, Belkin presented the award to Matlaga, along with an AED donated by ZOLL Medical, and a CPR Anytime kit donated by Laerdal Medical.