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Monday, February 25, 2008

City resident back in the classroom

By James Tinley
Register Staff
— Had a chain of events not unfolded exactly the way they did one fateful day in November, Grant “Cliff” Roti is convinced he would be dead.
But less than two months after the Milford resident was found sprawled in front of his Housatonic Community College office — with no heartbeat — Roti has made a full recovery and has since resumed teaching.
“If it didn’t happen where it happened and if things didn’t happen just like they did, with the student finding me and campus security having a defibrillator and the ambulance coming as quickly as it did … I’d be dead,” Roti said Friday.
Roti, an English and Latin professor at the Bridgeport college suffered what doctors told him was sudden cardiac arrest brought on by ventricular fibrillation, or the uncoordinated contraction of cardiac muscles.
About 40 seconds after Roti collapsed, he was found by Debbie Trump, a student who happened to be more than 40 minutes early for her 8 a.m. class.
“I just knew if I didn’t do something he was going to die,” Trump said Friday. She cried for help and quickly began performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, calling on her memory from a first aid course she took years ago.
Then HCC Director of Public Safety Chris Gough got an emergency call and sprang into action.
“When I got there, he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing,” Gough said in November. “He probably would have died if we didn’t get to him when we did. He was for all intents and purposes dead when we found him.”
But Roti did not die. Gough took over performing CPR and had Julie Calderon, another public safety officer, run back to his office to grab a portable defibrillator.
After one shock from the life-saving device and briefly resuming CPR, the machine detected a faint heartbeat and Roti began breathing again, Gough said. Roti, who turns 66 Monday, was still unconscious when he was taken away by ambulance.
Roti said he was then brought into a medically induced coma and medically induced hypothermia to drive blood to his vital organs.
Roti, whose heart had stopped beating for more than three minutes, suffered no ill mental effects and impressed doctors with his ability to recite the entire succession of U.S. presidents only two weeks after his collapse. Roti now has a device fitted in his chest that acts as both a pacemaker and a defibrillator, he said.
He said his brush with death hasn’t really changed his life outlook except, “I’m a little more grateful, I suppose, for the people in my life.”
Trump who has only exchanged a few words with Roti since the incident, says she gets “a warm feeling” every time she thinks about how she was able to to help save a life.
Although people have described Gough and Trump as heroes and the quick-thinking pair have even both been nominated for a Red Cross “Heroes” award, they are quick to shrug off any accolades.
Trump insists she was did what anyone would do in that situation.
“I don’t know if I would call myself a hero,” Gough said Friday. “My feeling is I did my job, I’m just glad my training paid off when it counted. And Cliff is one strong man with a very strong will to live. I don’t think we can discount that when we talk about how he was able to recover like he did.”



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