2 journalists save hotel guest after heart attack; friend starts fundraiser

UPDATE 08/11/16 5:38 p.m. This story has been updated to correct references to response times by emergency crews.

WASHINGTON — A man at the Marriott Wardman Park is thankful after two journalists rushed to his aid after he suffered a heart attack.

Steven DeLuca, 50, of Silver Spring, was just doing his job Saturday night at the hotel when things took a turn for the worst.

“We were standing there and he just fell back,” said his friend and co-worker, Aaron LaMere.

The men work as entertainment scenic artists. They were setting up for a conference at the hotel this week when DeLuca suddenly collapsed and had a heart attack. According to a statement from the hotel, he was working as an employee of a third-party vendor contracted by a group that was meeting at the hotel.

LaMere recalled, “He wasn’t really breathing … so that’s when we started shouting for people to call 911.”

Two journalists attending an event at the hotel Saturday night rushed to help DeLuca. They were there for the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists and were on their way to the ballroom.

Jacksonville CBS 47/Fox 30 Action News photojournalist Brandon Bryant and Marketplace reporter Kimberly Adams saw DeLuca go down, and performed CPR on him before medical personnel arrived. Emergency crews arrived in about 5 minutes, according to D.C. Fire and EMS.

Bryant is outraged that the hotel did not have a defibrillator. LaMere, who says he was AED certified in 2001, was also surprised.

“My only thought was … why don’t they have an AED in a hotel — this hotel — especially with the number of people in the hotel,” LaMere wondered.

“You’ve got to make sure that you have this machine in case of emergencies,” Bryant added. “There’s not one in here. I’m watching families with babies; I’ve seen little kids in this hotel.”

Doctors at George Washington University Hospital plan to keep DeLuca through this week; they’re planning to implant a defibrillator in his body. The father of three is in ICU where doctors are trying to figure out why he had the heart attack.

In the mean time, his friend has started a GoFundMe campaign, hoping to raise $10,000 to help the family defray expenses while DeLuca is laid up.

“We’re in a segment of the entertainment industry that is made up of freelance people, so if we don’t work, we don’t get paid,” LaMere said. “GoFundMe is a way for me to take additional stress off him and his family so they don’t have to worry about paying hospital expenses.”

Doctors say DeLuca will be hospitalized for up to six days and they told Bryant that he and the second journalist saved the victim’s life.

“It’s been a sigh of relief for me. I’ve been praying for him,” Bryant said. “I don’t want to be called a hero … I look at this man as my brother, and we should all be our brother’s keepers no matter what.”

The Marriott Wardman Park spokesman also said in the email statement Monday afternoon that a 911 call was immediately made.

Also, it clarified its defibrillators policy, writing that it “has a policy requiring all Marriott branded hotels, worldwide, to implement an automatic external defibrillator (‘AED’) program where required by applicable law. In the event of any medical emergency, our hotel employees are instructed to contact local emergency medical professionals to assist individuals who may require medical attention.”

LaMere says the incident was terrifying. “The thought running through my mind was how do I call his wife and tell her [that] her husband is dead,” he said. “It was definitely a lot of stress and a lot of emotion and a lot of things going on at once.”

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