Pa. Paramedic, EMT Honored for Saving Firefighter
A Fayette EMS paramedic and emergency-medical technician were recognized by a local fire department for helping save the life of a volunteer firefighter.
On the morning of June 27, Connellsville Township VFD firefighters assisted Bullskin VFD at a house fire along Quail Hill Road.
Rob Leiberger, assistant chief with Connellsville Township VFD, broke a window out of the residence to help with ventilation. After entering the smoky structure, he felt something was wrong.
"It felt like my arm went to sleep," Leiberger said.
He exited the house.
"I was bleeding bad," Leiberger said.
A part of the window that he broke slashed a wrist halfway up the arm.
Two members of Fayette EMS were standing in the driveway -- Jason Bartholomai, a 10-year paramedic, and Jackie Cross, an EMT with eight years' experience.
"I saw Rob coming out with a trickle of blood, and I just started grabbing stuff," Bartholomai said.
The training that he and Cross kicked into action. "Everything went so fast, we did it automatically."
On Thursday, Bartholomai and Cross were surprised with plaques from the Connellsville Township VFD to honor them for going above and beyond the call of duty.
"We appreciate the thank-yous, but that's our job," Bartholomai said.
"You just know what has to be done, and you do it," Cross said.
"They did their job -- but they did a great job," Leiberger said of the June 27 rescue.
The two emergency-medical responders were aware that Leiberger's injury was serious. Leiberger's cuts: six tendons, two nerves and an artery.
"It was the worst laceration I've ever seen," Bartholomai said, noting that he used a tourniquet for the first time.
Along with packing the wound, Cross and Bartholomai gave Leiberger intravenous fluids and pain medication as they prepared him to be loaded onto a medical helicopter.
"It was a scary day," Bartholomai said, adding that his pants and shirt were saturated with Leiberger's blood.
"I was told he could have lost his hand," Cross said. "I was worrying."
The incident especially hit home with Cross, whose husband is a firefighter with New Haven Hose Company. She knows what loved ones go through when responding to a call.
Leiberger was flown to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he endured two surgeries and continues to go through therapy three days a week.
Since then, he has made a remarkable recovery.
"They said I could never make a fist again," Leiberger said as he flexed a fist with his injured hand.
Leiberger said he hopes to return to firefighting sometime in March. He and his family and colleagues are happy that Leiberger is alive, thanks to the quick reactions of Cross and Bartholomai.
"If they weren't standing in that driveway, I would have been in trouble," Leiberger said.
"Minutes really counted in that particular time," said Connellsville Township VFD Safety Officer Joseph Kosinski. "The outcome could have been a lot different."
Leiberger said emergency-medical personnel play an important role when they are on the scene at fires. They treat firefighters with heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation or any prior medical condition that might arise or even an incident such as Leiberger's injury.
"I'm just glad that I was standing where I was standing," Bartholomai said. "When something happens to one of these guys, it's like family."
Copyright 2012 - The Daily Courier, Connellsville, Pa.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service