By Erik Holm
November 18, 2002
When his doctor walked into the emergency room a few hours after John Tierney’s heart stopped on Saturday night, he took one look at his patient and pronounced him blessed.
“You’re a very lucky man,” the doctor said.
Tierney, who suffered the heart attack in the stands moments before the kickoff of a high school playoff game between Locust Valley and Seaford, was revived by a defibrillator that had been on the sidelines.
The heart-starting device was there, in part, because of the efforts of one Northport couple, who believe a defibrillator could have saved their 14-year-old son, Louis Acompora, who died after being struck on the chest while playing lacrosse in 2000.
Defibrillators will be required at every high school sporting event in New York State beginning Dec. 1, thanks to a new state law the Acomporas had pushed for. But the Locust Valley school district and parents’ groups had purchased their district’s defibrillators more than two years ago, not long after Louis Acompora’s death.
When he heard about Tierney late Saturday night, Louis’ father, John Acompora, said he “got goose bumps.”
“It’s extremely gratifying. This is exactly the sort of thing we’ve been telling people,” he said yesterday. “The people who could be saved by this are teachers, janitors, parents, anyone at the event.”
Tierney, 61, an attorney from Brightwaters, was listed in critical but stable condition yesterday. But family members said that he is well on the way to recovery and would likely be moved out of the critical care unit today.
Tierney had lived with an irregular heartbeat for years without incident and had stents put in his heart in the past year as a preventive measure.
Between cracking jokes about his health and his luck yesterday, said his wife, Cecilia Tierney, Tierney was expressing amazement over the trainer, the doctors and the firefighter who happened to be on the sidelines at Hofstra University’s stadium, where the playoff game was being held.
He was amazed, too, that there was a defibrillator on hand, thanks to the efforts of Locust Valley school administrators, boosters and the Acomporas.
“Good things come from tragedy sometimes,” Cecilia Tierney said. “He just can’t believe there are so many good people in the world . . .”
Tierney is not the first on Long Island to be saved because of the efforts by the Acomporas to make defibrillators more widely available.
Among those who have been helped is Muhammad Shah of Nesconset, 15, a student at Smithtown High School, revived in December with a defibrillator purchased by school officials.
James Hanrahan of St. James was on the third hole at St. George’s Golf and County Club in Stony Brook in September 2001 when he had a heart attack. Club officials had heard of the Acomporas’ efforts and completed their training on their newly purchased defibrillators just two weeks before. They shocked him three times before restoring a normal heartbeat. Hanrahan said yesterday that he has played roughly 140 rounds of golf since.
About the Acomporas, Hanrahan said: “Without them, I wouldn’t be here. They have done an incredible job in a small amount of time. They are wonderful people.”
Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.