The Lawrence boys’ basketball season began like any other year. Locust Valley’s team traveled from the North Shore, and the junior varsity game had gone off without a hitch, but about half way through the Dec. 1 varsity contest it became scary.
Inwood resident and Lawrence graduate Larry Miller, a retired police officer working the game as a referee, apparently suffered a major heart attack a few minutes into the contest's third quarter. Lawrence School District Athletic Director Michael Gordon was serving as the public address announcer and recalled what occurred.“ There was foul call, I’m not sure who made the call but all of a sudden we heard a thud and saw [Miller] on the ground,” he said. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Gordon called for an ambulance and emergency medical technician’s from the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department responded. However, response to the emergency was nearly immediate as the district’s athletic trainer, Richard Ravo, and Dr. Nima Jalali, an emergency room doctor who has been attending Lawrence sporting events as he prepares to enter the sports medicine profession, and Hofstra students, David Lebron and Jennifer Lopez, who are doing athletic-training internships with Lawrence, assisted in saving Miller as well, performing cardio pulmonary resuscitation before someone got the automated external defibrillators.
Officials at the scene said Miller was in cardiac arrest — a sudden, sometimes temporary, cessation of function of the heart. Taken to South Nassau Community Hospital in Oceanside, Gordon said Miller was in good spirits.
Miller was released on Dec. 7, he said that his doctor told him he should be as good as new within two to three weeks. He repeatedly expressed his gratitude to the Lawrence school district and everyone who helped him, “They deserve all the credit in the world,” he said.
Miller has been a referee for 48 years. “Every game you’re supposed to ask the scorers table if they have a defibrillator. Only I never expected that it would be for me.”
Ravo explained that he was one of many who pitched in to help save Miller’s life. He said that he set up and used the AED while Jalali performed chest compressions and Patrick Frawley, a football and softball coach at Lawrence who had just a completed emergency medical technician course as part of his training at the Suffolk County Police Academy, performed rescue breaths. “It truly was a team effort,” Ravo said. “And thank goodness we successfully revived the referee.”
Gordon said he was impressed with how calm Ravo and others stayed under pressure, he added that Ravo told him that his adrenaline takes over in such instances and that it’s probably harder for people who just have to watch. “This is why we have a trainer at these events,” Gordon said. “All our coaches are also certified in first aid, CPR and AEDs if God forbid something happened without a trainer present.”
In an email sent to the Lawrence school community, Joe Martillotti, the varsity football head coach, praised Ravo’s expertise and quick response. “I have seen [Ravo] in action in many crisis situations over the years,” he wrote. “He has always done so in a calm and professional manner keeping our athletes (and referees) safe. The Lawrence School District is lucky to have such an amazing employee.”
Lawrence offers a class where students can also earn those certifications, it’s taught by Ravo, and according to Gordon the classes typically have about 20 students enrolled per semester. Gordon added that they’ll continue to encourage the students to learn these life-saving skills.