SYS Trio Honored For Saving Longtime Football Coach’s Life

Dennis Cacciatore, Scott Johnson, Vinny Mangano, Evan Gravano and Amairani Hernandez at SYS. DANA SHAW

Just three weeks after collapsing while playing pickleball at the Southampton Town Recreation Center in North Sea, former Southampton High School football coach Vinny Mangano said this week he was on the mend and grateful for the quick actions on the part of staff members who helped save his life by administering CPR and using an automated external defibrillator to apply a shock to restore his heart’s normal rhythm.

“They deserve all the credit,” he said of Southampton Youth Services Director Scott Johnson and two SYS employees, Evan Gravano and Amairani Hernandez, who sprang into action when he was stricken.

On Tuesday, during its last meeting of the year, the Southampton Town Board honored the three SYS staff members with proclamations for what Mr. Mangano called “a Christmas miracle.”

“It was basically a team effort by everybody at SYS,” Mr. Johnson told the Town Board. “Everyone played their role perfectly, and that is why Vinnny is here to talk about it.”

Mr. Mangano, 64, is a regular on the pickleball courts and an ambassador who promotes and teaches the sport on the East End for the United States Pickleball Association. The sport, which is gaining popularity as an alternative to tennis for many senior citizens, is played with paddles that are similar, but larger, than those used in ping-pong.

During a routine match on November 30, “the guy I was playing against said I hit a shot and he saw my eyes roll back in my head and I just collapsed,” Mr. Mangano said.

The pickleball courts are set up in the central rink at the center, not far from Mr. Johnson’s office. “Someone rushed into the main office, saying ‘Call 911,’” Mr. Johnson said. Mr. Gravano handled the call, and Mr. Johnson grabbed the portable AED. In the meantime, Ms. Hernandez had begun performing CPR.

“I was very surprised to see it was him because he is in such good shape,” said Mr. Johnson, who is himself a former baseball coach at Southampton High School.

Mr. Johnson administered one shock with the AED, which revived Mr. Mango, who was conscious when an ambulance arrived. “He was speaking quite coherently,” Mr. Johnson said, “but I don’t think he remembers. He also hit his head when he fell, so it’s possible he may have had a minor concussion.”

“I don’t remember any of it,” Mr. Mangano said. “I don’t even remember going to the rec center to play. And that includes talking to his wife, Sally, who was notified by SYS staff and arrived at the center before her husband was taken by ambulance to the hospital.”

Mr. Mangano was taken to Stony Brook Hospital, where doctors told him he had suffered from ventricular fibrillation that caused his heart to basically go into a spasm. The problem was caused by the equivalent of a short circuit and not blocked arteries, or, as he explained it to the Town Board, “The plumbing is good, but my electrical system went haywire.”

Both Mr. Mangano and Mr. Johnson agreed that last month’s emergency shows the importance of having AEDs in public places and training people in how to use them. For Mr. Johnson, it was his second save with an AED. He revived someone at SYS about 17 years. Mr. Mangano said he had also saved a man who collapsed on a pickleball court in Florida two years ago.

“It’s come complete circle for me,” he said. “I’m a big advocate for having AEDs at ball fields, in every gym, any place, where it can happen. And the more people you train, the better chance there is for a miracle like I had.”

Mr. Mangano spent a few days in the hospital and has already returned to SYS, where he and his wife walk every day. But when a heavy, wet snow fell last week, he didn’t dare start up the snow blower. “My neighbor bailed me out,” he said, cleaning off his walk and driveway.