Life Lion EMS: Everyday heroes

HERSHEY, Pa. — Not all heroes wear capes.

Some wear shirts, professional cargo pants, a utility belt and boots — the uniform of an emergency medical technician (EMT).

It was a typical day in late February for Margie Gantz, an EMT with Life Lion EMS, when she came across an extraordinary scene.

Making her third trip to Lowe’s that day while working on a house flip, Gantz came across a man in the parking lot slumped over his steering wheel. Without hesitation, she took action.

Right time, right place.

“It was a terrible day, really cold conditions,” recalled Gantz. “I couldn’t see right away what happened. When I came upon him, I thought he had stopped to let pedestrians cross. It wasn’t until I went around him that I saw him slumped.”

Gantz banged on the window but got no response. She quickly directed another passerby to call 911. Together, she and another man broke the car window and were able to pull the man, who had gone into cardiac arrest and was not breathing or moving, onto the pavement to start CPR.

The CPR Gantz performed saved his life that day.

“I just did what I had to do,” Gantz said.

Looking back on the experience, Gantz said it was somewhat surreal, but “proof that CPR works.”

She would later learn from Lowe’s parking lot cameras that the man lay slumped in that position for nearly two minutes while other people walked by.

Gantz wants everyone to know that awareness is key.

“People need to be aware of what’s going on around them. They walked right by him never noticing he was unresponsive and slumped over. I was aware something wasn’t right,” she said.

For her efforts, Gantz was nominated for the American Heart Association HeartSaver Hero Award, as well as the Inspire Award for exemplifying the RITE (Respect, Integrity, Teamwork and Excellence) values by Frank Banfer, manager of the Resuscitation Sciences Training Center at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where Margie also works.

But she did not tell her story to receive awards.

“I just want to teach everyone CPR,” she said. “This nomination is a vehicle for me to get the word out there to promote CPR. It can make all the difference for you, your family, a friend or a stranger.”

That man, who suffered an electrical problem with his heart, now has a pacemaker and is back to his everyday life.

“I truly believe that I’m just a set of hands helping out,” said Gantz. 

Gantz, who has been with Life Lion since 2005 and certified in CPR for 28 years, said being an EMT is not always easy, but it is always worth it. According to the American Heart Association, almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die.

“There are days you go home and you don’t have that save, but when you do it reinforces why what we do matter,” said Gantz.

Read more about Gantz and other Life Lion EMS staff who go above and beyond in this Penn State Medicine article.

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Last Updated July 10, 2018