Firefighter helps save runner who went into cardiac arrest

Tim Cernohous was saved by Paul Gucinski when he collapsed during a half marathon

By Lisa Kaczke
Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH, Minn. — When Tim Cernohous went into cardiac arrest and collapsed 30 yards from the finish line of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon two weeks ago, a nearby runner stopped to help him.

That runner, it turns out, is a Duluth firefighter and Essentia Health paramedic.

The Duluth Fire Department reported this week that Paul Gucinski, who has worked in Duluth for five years after six years with the Virginia Fire Department, was the runner who stopped to check Cernohous and then assisted first responders.

Cernohous had collapsed on the ground when Gucinski saw him from a ways back.

"I noticed him laying there and, having done this for a while, I recognized right away that it didn't look right. I went to take a look at him and check him out. Right away, I could tell that he wasn't doing real well ... rolled him over, opened his airway and checked for a pulse," Gucinski said.

Gucinski said he tried to yell to a fellow firefighter he saw working on the sideline, but with all the noise from the crowd and speakers along Canal Park Drive, he couldn't get his attention. However, a firefighter on the other side of the street saw Gucinski and came over to where he was with Cernohous. The firefighter began chest compressions on Cernohous, who didn't have a pulse, while Gucinski still tried to get the other firefighter's attention because he had an automated external defibrillator. Gucinski said his concern was getting the defibrillator to Cernohous as soon as possible.

"I knew for sure there was a high probability that he was going to get him back because something had happened right away and (timing is) key in those situations. That's why starting CPR and getting that AED as soon as possible was my No. 1 priority," Gucinski said.

It turned out that Cernohous didn't need the defibrillator. He came to on his own, scrambled to his feet and told the medical team that he wanted to finish the race. He didn't want to be loaded onto a gurney or a wheelchair, so the entire group — firefighters, paramedics and race officials — walked the remaining distance to the finish line together.

"You could kinda see where things were headed. He was starting to wake up and wanting to finish and I was thinking the best thing would be to get him on the cot and get him out of the chaotic situation, but it worked out just as good letting him finish. It worked out real good for him and everybody, got him right to the medical tent," Gucinski said.

Gucinski stayed at the scene for a few minutes to help the firefighters and Grandma's Marathon staff with the gurney. Once Duluth Fire Department and Gold Cross Ambulance staff were helping Cernohous, Gucinski said he felt like he could leave the scene to finish his half marathon.

Cernohous went from the race's medical tent to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center. Doctors weren't able to find anything significant with additional tests and the reason for Cernohous' collapse isn't fully known.

Cernohous said on Thursday that he's doing well. His chest is feeling better and doctors haven't said that he can't run. He said he hasn't had a chance to talk to anyone who helped him after he collapsed, but he's appreciative of their actions. Cernohous, who works as a pharmacist at Essentia Health, is certified in handling emergency medical situations and said the first responders who helped him did everything they were supposed to do.

"I'm very, very appreciative that they knew what they were doing; they sprung into action quickly," Cernohous said.

Copyright 2017 Duluth News Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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