Heroes usually come out of nowhere to save lives and the day. For Sergeant at Arms Gerald Sparacino, the rescuer came from the Louisiana Senate offices in the State Capitol.
“There were people standing around me, and I told them to wait right there because something’s about to happen,”Sparacino remembers thinking as he began to lose consciousness outside of Senate President John Alario’s office last Monday.
Those were the 10-year-veteran’s last thoughts before he fainted at his post around noon. As he stopped breathing and began turning blue, someone started giving him CPR.
To the rescue, came Sen. Eric LeFleur, D-Ville Platte, fresh from struggle with numbers in an attempt to erase the lake of red ink in which the state finds itself this fiscal year. He was leaving his office with a friend for lunch when he saw Sparacino on the floor.
“He wasn’t breathing,” LaFleur said, “and that’s what made us panic. He was changing colors, and we didn’t have to check for a pulse because we knew he wasn’t breathing.”
LaFleur knew what to do. He administered two cycles of CPR, after which Sparacino coughed and regained consciousness.
An attorney by profession, LaFleur, 51, said he isn’t certified in CPR and now downplays the incident. But he has served as a member of the voluntary Ville Platte fire department and his wife is a physician’s assistant. “CPR has been kind of a conversation at the dinner table.”
EMTs took Sparacino to the hospital and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee casually walked to lunch with a friend.
Sparacino, who is in his 70s and a retired Ascension Parish postal worker, said he had felt light-headed and nauseated moments before losing consciousness. He blamed it on a change in his medication. He was held in the hospital overnight before returning to work late last week.
Sparacino said he currently feels fine, although he jokes that his chest is still a little sore.
“I told Senator LaFleur that I really appreciate what you did but, my goodness, you broke 16 ribs doing it.”
How prepared the Capitol is to handle emergency situations of this caliber on a day-to-day basis?
State police officers located throughout the building are certified in CPR and first-aid as a part of their training in the police academy.
Gil Vallian, an Acadian Ambulance service paramedic, said two EMTs work in the House, with one medic in the building at all times, adding that paramedics are asked to be on standby outside of the House occasionally when the House goes into session.
In the Senate, a first aid station staffed by a nurse is located on the ground floor of the Capitol next to the Senate committee rooms, and is open to the public when the legislature is in session.
The station has access to an automatic external defibrillator, a wheelchair, crutches, a fire extinguisher, exam tables, and various medications and first aid supplies, as well as the occasional flavored candy for children.