July 3, 2008–Honesdale, PA–David Belkin died last February during a pick-up basketball game, but because of quick action by Roman Matlaga, he is alive to tell about it.
On Sunday July 6 at 11 A.M., Belkin will be reunited with his hero. He’ll present Matlaga with the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation’s People Saving People Award at the home of game organizer, Henry Skier, at 13 Hillcrest Rd. (behind Wayne Memorial Hospital) in Honesdale.
Also invited to the event are State Representative Mario Scavello (R-Monroe County), Representative Michael Peifer (R-Wayne County), State Senator Lisa Baker (R-District 20), and Wayne Highlands School District Superintendent Tom Jenkins.
In February 2007, Belkin, 65, of Bethesda, MD, was a guest at the basketball game’s cold-weather venue, Lakeside Elementary School. Matlaga, one of the regulars, was there when David drained a fade away jumper, then collapsed.
Matlaga, an emergency physician, recognized the condition as “sudden death” brought on by SCA. Matlaga immediately started CPR and after one shock with an automated external defibrillator (AED), David made it back to the land of the living to ask “did we win?”
The AED was at the school thanks to Pennsylvania House Bill 4 of 2001 which provided two free AEDs to every school district and HB 1789 of 2007, sponsored by Rep. Scavello, which emphasized the need for AEDs in schools and required schools to offer CPR-AED training to school employees and volunteers.
“Nearly 500 people die from sudden cardiac arrest every day,” SCA Foundation president Mary Newman said. “The vast majority could be saved with a quick combination of CPR and defibrillation.” Although Matlaga is a doctor, Newman emphasized that anyone can help an SCA victim if they have the courage to step up and if an AED is readily available.
Also instrumental in saving Belkin’s life were Jenkins and retired Superintendent Paul Edwards, who pushed for AEDs in all district schools. “Wayne Highlands School District should be commended for its wisdom and foresight,” said Newman.
Rachel Moyer, an AED advocate whose son 15-year-old Gregory died from SCA in 2000, was a driving force behind the legislation.