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Response team saves custodian in East Harlem

Cluster teacher Geraldo Martinez (sixth from left) adminstered CPR, but said sav Jonathan Fickies

Cluster teacher Geraldo Martinez (sixth from left) adminstered CPR, but said saving a beloved custodian's life was "a real team effort" by the Building Response Team.

It was lunchtime and the cafeteria was in high gear when custodian Luis Diaz crumpled to the floor at co-located PS 83/182 in East Harlem.

Diaz is alive today because the Building Response Team was on its toes.

A code blue call for help went out to the 10-member team over a walkie-talkie and, within minutes, team members were heading to the trouble spot from all over the building.

Cluster teacher Geraldo Martinez got there first and started administering CPR while paraprofessional Michael Martinez headed for the defibrillator. Other members of the team cleared the cafeteria and hallways and children were kept in their classrooms to prepare for the arrival of emergency responders from a nearby hospital.

Today, a grateful Diaz is recovering at home, waiting for a pacemaker and adjusting to early retirement.

A 27-year veteran teacher, Martinez said he was very nervous at first because the team has never faced more than children’s bumps and bruises. Although he has been certified in CPR for more than 10 years, this was the first time he had to use that training.

“I could see that Luis was turning blue when I started the CPR compressions,” Martinez explained, “and when it was all over, I was so happy to know I was able to help because I’ve known him for years.”

But Martinez refuses to pat himself on the back, declaring it “a real team effort.”

Lucky for Diaz, the first responders were in top form after holding a practice drill the day before, as they do once a month throughout the school year to stay in shape.

PS 83 Chapter Leader Susan Kowal marveled at the speed and efficiency of the team.

She called Diaz “a really good guy” who had worked as the custodian in the building for 20 years and knew students’ names.

“He is missed,” she said, “but we’re grateful he’s alive.”

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