Grateful Patients Thank First Responders Who Gave Them Second Chance at Life

Katherine Burger (right) and her daughter, Jennifer (left), are reunited with first responder Necole Jackson during Northwell Health’s Second Chance Luncheon.

The arrival of paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) often occurs during times of great anxiety and crisis. But, during a luncheon held recently to honor EMS personnel from Northwell Health, smiles and handshakes replaced the  looks of concern that frequently greet EMTs as several patients and their loved ones gathered to thank the heroic professionals who saved their lives.

First established by President Gerald Ford in 1973 to acknowledge the achievements of EMS agencies, EMS Week serves to remind the public of the vital contribution made by EMTs, paramedics, critical care medics and communications specialists. In recognition of this event, Northwell Health’s Center for Emergency Medical Services (CEMS) held a Second Chance Luncheon May 25 to bring together grateful patients whose lives were saved by various “pre-hospital care providers.”

“Being an EMS worker is a tough job,” said Gene Tangney, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Northwell Health, who recalled his early days as an EMT in Queens. “It requires a special type of person who chooses to do a job not because it’s easy, but because it’s very hard. Inside the heart of a first responder is the desire to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Michael Guttenberg, MD, medical director of Northwell’s Center for Emergency Medical Services (EMS), agreed.

“We are so honored to be able to give thanks to our first responders, who are so often the unsung heroes of our health system,” said Dr. Guttenberg. “All of the people in this room have saved a person’s life who had suffered a potentially fatal cardiac emergency during this past year. They work very long hours in difficult conditions, and deserve to be recognized for all that they do.”

Kathryn Burger, of Glendale, Queens, came to thank “her heroes.” Ms. Burger, 64, was enjoying the new release of “Beauty and the Beast” on April 2 with her daughter and 9-year-old grandson. Suddenly, the youngster noticed that his grandmother was snoring. He tried to awaken her, to no avail. Next, his mom tried. By this time, everyone in the theater knew something was wrong.

Fortunately, first responders Christopher Delaney and Kelly Gorman were nearby and arrived at the theater within five minutes. They found Ms. Burger in an unresponsive state. Cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was performed and Ms. Burger regained a pulse. She was brought to the Emergency Department at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Forest Hills. Once stabilized, she was transferred to North Shore University Hospital, where she received an automated implantable cardioverter defibrillator (AICD). A dedicated music teacher, Ms. Burger has already returned to work part-time. 

Ms. Burger and her daughter became emotional upon greeting first-responder Necole Jackson at the reunion. 

“It’s hard to put into words how grateful we are to her,” said Ms. Burger.

With more than 754 employees and over 90 ambulances and other emergency response vehicles, the Northwell Health Center for EMS is the largest hospital-based mobile health program in the East, responding to more than 140,000 requests for help each year.

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About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 22 hospitals and over 550 outpatient facilities. We care for more than two million people annually in the metro New York area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 62,000 employees – 15,000+ nurses and about 3,900 physicians, including more than 2,800 members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. And we offer health insurance through CareConnect. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit

Michelle Pinto
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