The Albertson Fire Department and the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York honored Joel and Andrew Melamed in a ceremony on Aug. 31, after receiving the FASNY EMS Provider of the Year Award in Albany one a week earlier.
The Melameds received the award after executing a daring and dramatic rescue of jet skier on Long Island’s Great South Bay in July 2014.
“Saving a life is always rewarding, but to be able to do it with your son is special,” Joel said.
On July 20, 2014, the Melameds were off-duty, on their boat in Long Island’s Great South Bay when a mayday call came over the maritime radio. A jet skier had collided with another vessel in the Lindenhurst Channel, the operator unconscious in the water. Gail Melamed, a 10-year emergency room supervisor at Winthrop-University Hospital, aided the two with the rescue from the boat.
“Joel and Andrew did what they always do as emergency responders; put themselves in harm’s way to save the life of someone they didn’t even know,” said New York State Senator Jack Martins.
The Melameds maneuvered their boat closer and located a 45-year-old man face down in the water. The two dove into the water, swam to the unconscious individual, and hauled him aboard the swim platform of another boat that had come to assist.
“Our first responders in North Hempstead do a remarkable job in protecting our community,” said North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “It is a true pleasure to see two of their number receive such recognition for their service.”
The victim was unconscious and not breathing when the Melameds began to perform CPR as the boat raced toward the shore. They had to maintain their balance on the narrow swim platform and avoid the boat’s spinning propellers, which were only a few inches away.
“Their heroic actions combined with their specialized training made the difference in saving a life,” said New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.
The boat was intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard ten minutes later. The patient was transferred to the Coast Guard vessel, along with the Melameds who continued to perform CPR.
“Joel and Andrew’s actions are consistent with the finest traditions of the volunteer fire and EMS service,” said FASNY President Robert McConville. “Through quick thinking, courage, and teamwork, they saved the life of a fellow human being.”
By the time the Coast Guard vessel reached its dock, the patient had regained a faint pulse and was breathing again. He was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip by the Babylon Volunteer Fire Department.
“We have many first responders here in Nassau County, all of whom make sacrifices for the betterment of our community,” said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. “Joel and Andrew showed outstanding courage and initiative in rescuing a fellow mariner on the Great South Bay.”
The patient was released from the hospital, having made a full recovery two weeks later.
“We called the hospital that night of the accident and they didn’t think he was going to make it,” said Joel. “But I called the hospital a couple days later and they transferred me to his room and he answered. I could’nt believe it.”
The Melameds also showed how early and effective CPR can make the difference between life and death. The urgency and skill with which Joel and Andrew handled the emergency undoubtedly helped to save the victim’s life.
“Training and experience prepares you to react, on duty or off duty,” Joel said. “It’s invaluable.”
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