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Dunedin museum director Vinnie Luisi thanks life-savers 10 years later

Vinnie Luisi, center, thanks Pat Kennedy, left, and Sonny Thornton for helping save his life. On Feb. 9, 1999, Kennedy and Thornton went into action doing CPR on Luisi right after he had his heart attack.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Vinnie Luisi, center, thanks Pat Kennedy, left, and Sonny Thornton for helping save his life. On Feb. 9, 1999, Kennedy and Thornton went into action doing CPR on Luisi right after he had his heart attack.

DUNEDIN — Ten years ago, Vinnie Luisi had a heart attack during a planning meeting for Dunedin's centennial celebration.

On Monday, he hosted a luncheon for the people who helped save his life that day.

"I'm glad I'm here to pay this," Luisi said when the bill for lunch came.

"It wasn't your time," said Pat Kennedy, Dunedin's now-retired recreation director.

"Some reason for me to stick around," added Luisi, director of the Dunedin Historical Museum.

When he was stricken on Feb. 9, 1999, Luisi was meeting in a conference room at City Hall with Kennedy and Sonny Thornton, who owns an insurance office.

Kennedy and Thornton went into action doing CPR.

"It was breathe, breathe, breathe, pray, pray, pray," Kennedy said.

"We could get him going, but we couldn't keep him going," said Thornton, who was doing chest compressions while Kennedy did mouth-to-mouth.

Dunedin firefighters George Treubig, Erich Thiemann and Mike Miklinski were on delayed response out of their zone picking up supplies when they heard the call come in. The nearest unit to City Hall was on another call. "We jumped on the call," said Treubig.

When they got there, Luisi was not breathing and had no pulse. The firefighters took over treatment.

By the time they got Luisi to the hospital, he had a pulse but still needed some help breathing. Thiemann credits the quick CPR Luisi received along with their engine being only about 2 1/2 minutes away.

Now 10 years later, a table with 10 chairs — four others who witnessed the heart attack also were invited — sat waiting at Cafe Alfresco downtown.

Luisi had been planning the gathering for a while.

Miklinski was the only one who couldn't make it.

"It's kind of rewarding, makes you feel a little appreciated," Treubig said of being invited to the celebration.

"Nine times out of 10," Thiemann added, "our contact with people ends at the hospital."

Dunedin museum director Vinnie Luisi thanks life-savers 10 years later 02/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 9, 2009 10:58pm]
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