Mo Huballa and Jack Pisani came to the aide of Derek Blakelock after he collapsed while running near Chews Elementary School.
It was Friday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, and Highland Regional High School seniors Mo Huballa and Jack Pisani were driving to Pisani’s house after the girls soccer championship game.
It was also Derek Blakelock’s birthday. The Gloucester Township resident took the day off from work and went for a run in the afternoon in his neighborhood around Chews Elementary School.
It started out as a typical day for all three men, but the day took a drastic turn around 4:30 p.m.
On the drive to Pisani’s house, Huballa and Jack saw a body lying near the school’s property. They pulled over and heard the man gasping for air.
“It was like 10 seconds of shock because we didn’t think we would see an actual body there,” Huballa said. “We were looking at each other like, is this an actual body?”
It was Blakelock. They didn’t know who he was at the time, but called 911.
“I was thinking we could help him, but I didn’t want to hurt him in any way, so we stayed there and waited for the ambulance,” Pisani said. “It felt like an hour, but it was only two minutes. It wasn’t even two minutes.”
Huballa recalled the first set of paramedics to arrive performed CPR on Blakelock right away.
“I remember it clearly,” he said. “One of the paramedics looked stunned, shocked and sad in way. It’s hard to explain, but you could see it in his face. He looked stressed, like the situation didn’t look good and got worse.”
According to Blakelock’s wife, Megan, the paramedics told her Derek lost conscious when the paramedics arrived. He was transported to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden where he was placed on life support.
“At that point, we did not know how long he had been without oxygen,” Megan said. “They weren’t ruling out a heart attack, but were more concerned about his brain than heart at that point.”
She said they were able to resuscitate his heart, but he was in a medical coma and didn’t wake up until Sunday evening.
“After a long two days watching him in the hospital, his body temperature got back to normal and he started making responses that were positive. Next thing you know, Monday morning he was sitting up in a chair.”
Blakelock ended up having a blocked artery that caused him to go into cardiac arrest. Doctors inserted a stent in his artery, and he’s been feeling back to normal ever since.
He doesn’t remember much, including the days prior to his run and his hospital stay. His wife said the nurses and doctors call him “miracle man.”
“They had no idea how this happened, why it happened, and they were all completely surprised,” Megan said.
“The EMT told me less than 10 percent of the people who go into cardiac arrest and don’t receive immediate health care don’t survive,” Derek said.
Huballa and Pisani visited Blakelock a few times at the hospital and at his home to give their wishes and prayers. The Blakelocks are grateful for their actions and don’t think Derek would be alive if it weren’t for their quick thinking and the paramedics’ timely response.
“You really appreciate the fact that two teenage boys who were just driving by, they can take the time to stop and see what’s around them,” she said.
“I’m grateful for them for, first of all, noticing and, second of all, doing something about it rather than just driving by,” Derek said. “Perhaps somebody else might not have been taken the time to help somebody out.”
Huballa said timing was everything, and they were in the right place at the right time.
“It blows my mind,” he said. “Let’s say I could have been on my phone or not looking in that direction if we didn’t see him. I was glad we were lucky enough to have left the game at that time, and I saw him there. Who knows what would have happened.”
The young men and EMTs were recognized by Gloucester Township Mayor Dave Mayer and council at the recent council meeting.
“They are such nice guys and I felt so thankful to say that to them in person,” Megan said. “Without the boys, the EMTs would not have been there either.”
“Certainly, it is remarkable when citizens help fellow citizens out, but this situation is really incredible because you have young men who saw something and instead of ignoring it, they actually did something about it,” Mayer said. “Quite frankly, they saved a life. We wanted to honor them for not only for being outstanding citizens in Gloucester Township, but more importantly for saving a life and I think it’s very admirable.”