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Easton Nurse Honored for Life-Saving Rescue

Elizabeth Sorensen was sailing in Black Rock Harbor in February when she saw a friend collapse to the deck of his boat and a shipmate calling for help. The Easton resident and Bridgeport Hospital nurse steered to Russell Dunleavy’s boat to help. He was blue, was not breathing and had no pulse.

“Everything just went black,” said Dunleavy, 59, of Bridgeport. “The lights went out.”

Dunleavy, who was sailing in a race, had suffered a heart attack. Sorensen and Greg Wykoff, a friend from Fairfield, performed chest compressions on Dunleavy as they made their way to the dock. Bridgeport firefighter Mike Sullivan was waiting with a defibrillator, and after two shocks Dunleavy’s heart began beating.

The group went to Bridgeport Hospital, where Dr. Donal Conway put Dunleavy into a medically induced coma and had his body temperature lowered to prevent damage to the rest of his organs. Chief of Cardiology Dr. Clive Robinson performed bypass surgery four days later.

“I could tell Dr. Conway was amazed that Russell was alive at that point,” Sorensen said. “He told me I had saved Russell’s life that day—well, we all saved Russell’s life that day.”

Dunleavy recovered completely and returned to work as a contractor in April. He is also back on his boat. For their part, Sorensen, Wykoff, Sullivan and fellow responders Christopher Gill and Charlie Gulotta of Bridgeport were honored last week by the American Heart Association. Dunleavy thanked them and the hospital for their roles in helping him get through the ordeal. “Aces all across the board,” he said.

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