LaPlace reunion for those who saved local man’s life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LAPLACE – Without the kindness of neighbors and friends, Norman Zeringue Jr. of LaPlace might not have lived to see the month of September.
The story of Zeringue’s close call is a very detailed one: 63-year-old Zeringue was hard at work weeding his front yard on Monday, Aug. 19, when he had a sudden heart attack. Norman had just retired. He collapsed in his front yard, where he was fortunately found by a home health care worker, Vicky Fleming, who just happened to be passing his house on the way to see a patient.
Fleming stopped immediately in the middle of the road. The driver behind her nearly rear ended Fleming during the sudden stop but called 911 immediately after seeing her run to the inert Zeringue. Neighbors noticed what was going on and ran to assist the pair, doing chest compressions that Zeringue’s daughter, Jennifer, said may have been the key to saving her father’s life. First responders were on the scene within a couple of minutes and administered one shock with an automated external defibrillator. Paramedics arrived shortly after to take over chest compressions.
Zeringue received three more AED shocks before emergency workers detected a pulse.
“It’s totally remarkable that he’s alive, and it’s even more remarkable that he has no damage to his heart,” said his wife, Debbie. She went on to say that Norman had previously had a stent placed in his artery. The stent occluded, or partially closed,causing the attack.
Zeringue was able to recover from the potentially fatal event with few problems because of neighbors, friends and emergency workers who were in the right place at the right time.
Naturally, the family chose to thank everyone who aided his amazing recovery with a small reunion and a hot meal. The gathering was filled with warmth, recollections and camaraderie.
“I’ve been doing this with Acadian 15 years, and I’ve seen people come back before. But the difference was when we brought you to the Oschner in Kenner, you scratched your nose,” said Chad Duhe of Acadian Ambulance. “That’s not something that someone who’s not cognitive would do. Your brain is working, saying my nose is itching.”
Of course, Zeringue can’t recall many details from that day.
“It’s so good to have all of you together. I can’t express my appreciation more. I only know what people tell me because I don’t remember anything until Friday,” he said, which brought a laugh from everyone in the room.
Renee Waguespack, Zeringue’s sister, and Jennifer were both moved to tears during the small gathering, when they recalled where they were when they received the phone call about Norman’s collapse. Waguespack said she always expected something serious to happen since both of her parents had a notable history of heart disease.
“I knew what the outcome could have been, from seeing my father so sick. Norman is the spitting image of his dad, just with no hair. He basically told me and my brother ‘I knew this was going to happen,’” said Waguespack. “We’re very grateful for the gentlemen and ladies that were his angels.”
“When we started to figure out the story behind it, we realized that he is only here by two things: the grace of God and the kindness of others. Had one of these individuals in the house today not stopped and done their job or been paying attention, my father would have a totally different outcome today,” said Jennifer Zeringue.
Though appreciative, emergency workers were unexpectedly bashful when confronted with the outpouring of gratitude from the family. They all supped thankfully at the family’s kitchen table.
“Ten years is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Duhe.
“Ever heard of 24/7? (That means) 24 complaints, seven ‘thank yous’,” said emergency medical responder Michael Moscona. “This never happens. I’m overwhelmed.”
“Exactly. This doesn’t happen that often, so now we’re tiptoeing around,” said emergency medical responder Michael Whitcomb.
“(We’re) happy because it’s not the normal outcome you see in most of the calls we go to. Especially in CPR kinds of calls,” said District Chief Doug Brasington.