, Salem, MA

October 2, 2013

Off-duty Topsfield EMT helps shock man back to life at gym


---- — DANVERS — Off-duty Topsfield call firefighter and EMT Charles Brown and others who like an early workout used an automated external defibrillator to revive a 41-year-old man who collapsed while running on a treadmill at Boston North Fitness Center at 30 Prince St. yesterday morning.

“Charlie Brown began CPR immediately and also applied the gym’s AED and converted the gentleman after one shock,” wrote Topsfield fire Chief Ronald Giovannacci, in an email to his department announcing the save.

“The victim was transported to Salem Hospital and at last report was doing well,” wrote Giovannacci. “Please thank Charlie for his exemplary response.”

“Good timing, good training, right place, right time,” Giovannacci said in an interview.

Danvers fire Chief Kevin Farrell said the report came in around 6 a.m. as a seizure for an individual who was working out on a treadmill and started sweating profusely before collapsing.

Danvers Engine 2 with Lt. Glen Cooney and firefighters Ed Deroche and Adam Strome responded, as did staff from Lyons Ambulance, Farrell said. Along with Brown, bystanders, staff from the fitness center, a doctor, whom Farrell did know, and others came to the aid of the stricken man.

“The whole scenario was a hero,” said Brown, a physical therapist and a longtime call firefighter in Topsfield who does not want to take sole credit for saving the man’s life.

Brown said he was acquainted with the individual as part of an informal “5:00 in the morning club” of those who like to work out early. Brown had just finished his workout when he heard a thud from across the gym.

After hearing the noise, a fellow gym-goer named Brett Grieco, who Brown said is in training to become an EMT, called out to Brown to come over.

While another man, Eric Morey, cradled the victim who had fallen straight off the treadmill, a man named Tom Burgess fetched the fitness club’s defibrillator. At first, the men thought the man was having a seizure as his body began to clench up. Brown searched for a pulse but could not find one, and the victim began to turn blue, he said.

Brown, a Topsfield resident who is married to Topsfield fire Capt. Jen Collins-Brown, said his training kicked in. He started chest compressions, and when the AED was brought over, the men applied it. The device advised to give the victim a shock. After that, Brown still did not feel a pulse and restarted CPR.

At that point, “the gent takes in a gigantic breath,” said Brown, who by then got a pulse. Then police, paramedics and Danvers firefighters arrived to take over.

“It was a storm of everything that could have gone right, did go right,” said Brown. The victim was speaking by the time paramedics attached a monitoring device to him.

“It’s good that someone’s husband and dad will still be there,” Brown said.

“That’s the way the system is supposed to work,” said Giovannacci about having a defibrillator on hand and CPR started early, along with the quick transport of the victim.

“I’m not surprised because he’s been a loyal and dedicated member of the Fire Department,” Giovanncci said of Brown’s work. The chief noted that the department went through CPR retraining last week in advance of the Topsfield Fair starting this weekend.

“He’s living today, which is huge,” said David Champlain, general manager of Boston North Fitness Center. “We are hoping the best for (him),” said Champlain. He described the man as a loyal customer, part of a group he has come to know like family.

“Charlie was right there; he was phenomenal,” said Champlain, who added that the incident was both frightening and eye-opening.

Farrell said the incident shows that not only was the victim lucky to have well-trained people around him, but the importance of having a defibrillator available.

“It’s so rare for those of us in the field,” Collins-Brown said of the experience of saving someone who collapses, “so I’m glad he got to experience that ... It’s one thing to bring someone back, but it’s another thing to bring someone back with no cognitive defects.”

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.