When 45-year veteran firefighter Larry Kunzig, 64, heard his wife, Grace, tell him a pregnant woman had collapsed in front of their Hauppauge house, he didn’t hesitate for a second — not even to grab his shoes.
“I just ran out of the front door,” Kunzig said. “You don’t even think, you just do.”
Kunzig darted across his front yard at approximately 6:50 p.m. Aug. 6 while still in his socks. He assessed the 47-year-old woman, and upon seeing she was unconscious and not breathing, the firefighter immediately began performing CPR.
The woman had pulled up with her husband in front of the house in an SUV, according to Assistant Chief Brett Martinez of Hauppauge Fire Department. Her husband was starting to panic when she fell unconsciousness. The woman’s lips were blue and foam was coming from her mouth, according to the accounts of first responders.
The seven-month pregnant woman was transported by a Stony Brook medic to Stony Brook University Hospital where she underwent an emergency C-section. The name of the mother or baby has not been released; however, officials from the fire department said both are doing well.
“She had a very shallow heartbeat,” Kunzig said. “You just keep doing the CPR. When you see she’s pregnant you want to be careful — you can’t go too low because you don’t want to hurt [the baby.]
Two young volunteers of the Hauppauge Fire Department Andrew Mendola, 18, and Jonathan Munro, 18, just happened to be driving nearby. They heard of the situation through their radio, and saw what was happening in front of their fellow firefighter’s house, they jumped out of the car and took positions on either side of the woman and started helping with CPR.
“It was shocking to see,” Munro said. It was his first time performing CPR in a real-life emergency. “We just helped in any way we could.”
Mendola said he asked Kunzig if he needed to swap out, but the man was laser focused.
“We asked if he needed help and he said ‘I got this, I got this,” Mendola said. “His adrenaline was going, he was not stopping.”
All together the group kept up CPR for about five minutes before more emergency responders arrived from Nesconset and Hauppauge fire departments. Officials said that the first responder’s actions saved the woman’s life.
Kunzig’s wife said she had stayed up all night praying for the family.
“I know emotionally what she’s going through,” said Grace Kunzig, 60, a teacher’s aide at Hauppauge School District.
The event hit close to home for the Kunzigs, because Jan. 1 Grace had suddenly collapsed unconscious and was no longer breathing. Emergency medical technicians from the Hauppauge Fire Department, including Mendola, came to help and managed to resuscitate her with an defibrillator. Kunzig remembers how difficult it was for him not knowing if his wife would pull through.
“It’s hard to work on someone you love,” he said. “It just changes your whole perspective.”
Now the couple said they see what happened Monday as a way of paying it forward in gratitude for all the personnel who helped them in their greatest time of need.
“I was so grateful when they stopped my own cardiac arrest — I can’t thank the men and women enough for helping me,” Grace Kunzig said.