There are so many bad news stories these days. Let’s diverge from all of the negative news and share a real-life story about the commendable acts and life-saving efforts of two AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center employees who took fast action during a moment of truth, restaurant rescue.

The AtlantiCare employees are Christina Muhlbaier, a registered cardiac sonographer, and Brandi Gunning, a cardiovascular technician.

Frank DeAngelis credits these two AtlantiCare Heart and Vascular Institute staff, calling them his “Guardian Angels” for coming to his rescue when his heart stopped at a Brigantine, New Jersey restaurant, this past Friday, April 15, 2022.

There is no doubt that the fast and competent actions of Muhlbaier and Gunning saved DeAngelis’ life.

Following a successful procedure and recuperating at AtlantiCare, Muhlbaier and Gunning wheeled DeAngelis out of the hospital after giving him gave a stuffed bear, dressed in hospital scrubs.

Very appropriately. the bear was singing James Brown’s, “I Feel Good.” 

The doctors and other staff who cared for DeAngelis were also on hand and wished him well as he was leaving the hospital following his care.

Here’s the story:

DeAngelis and his wife Sue were having dinner at Cordivari’s Restaurant in Brigantine on Friday, April 15, 2022, during the 6:00 p.m. hour.

“I told my wife my sinuses were bothering me,” said DeAngelis, "I don’t know what happened next.”

Here’s what happened next. DeAngelis was in big trouble. His life was hanging in the balance.

Fortunately, Muhlbaier and Gunning were also dining at the same restaurant. They had just finished dessert and were preparing to settle their dinner check.

“I saw that Frank had slumped over and I knew something was wrong,” says Gunning, who lives in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. “I ran over and grabbed him to help break his fall while Christina dialed 911. I checked for a pulse – as did Christina – and we couldn’t detect one.”

DeAngelis’ heart had stopped beating. It was a significant moment of truth.

Here is a nice look at DeAngelis and his AtlantiCare heroes:

AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center photo.
AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center photo.

Muhlbaier, who lives in Washington Township, New Jersey, began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This was the first time that she had used her CPR skills outside of a hospital setting.

“In the hospital, you have all the monitors, equipment, and the support team of doctors, nurses and other clinicians around. You know something about the patient’s health history. In the restuarant, Brandi and I had to use our intuition,” said Muhlbaier.

“Frank regained consciousness and was able to answer a few questions,” says Gunning.

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Shortly after this life-saving intervention, the Brigantine Fire/EMS and Police and AtlantiCare paramedics arrived to the restaurant.

Brigantine Fire/EMS transported DeAngelis to the Heart and Vascular Institute at the ARMC Mainland Campus in Pomona, New Jersey.

The AtlantiCare paramedics rode with him in the ambulance and continued to provide care en route to the hospital.

DeAngelis was in good hands as AtlantiCare is the region’s only full-service cardiac surgery center.

“It happened so quickly, but it felt like it was an eternity,” says Gunning. “Everyone was a little stunned and wanted to help.”

It was an outstanding response,” said Toni Cordivari, the restaurant manager. “They really jumped into action. They insisted on paying their own bill. I at least took off the dessert for them.”

We’ve learned that many observing patrons offered to pay for Muhlbaier and Gunning’s dinner in honor of their heroic achievements at Cordivari Restaurant.

“Frank had an out-of-hospital-cardiac arrest, meaning he lost consciousness, his heart stopped beating, and he stopped breathing,” said Dr. Jeffrey Van Hook.

“He had no pulse. He had no respirations. There was no blood going to his brain,” said Van Hook, D.O., who is the medical director, of the Structural Heart Program, Heart and Vascular Institute.

Van Hook performed a cardiac catheterization for DeAngelis, using “balloon angioplasty to open one artery and placed a stent in another artery of the patient’s heart. Christina’s and Brandi’s efforts truly had a life-saving difference for our patient,” said Van Hook.

“It was a miracle that they were there,” says DeAngelis. “We were supposed to go to another restaurant and we changed our minds. It was a million-to-one shot that Christina and Brandi were there. I consider them my guardian angels.”

Muhlbaier and Gunning being at the restaurant must have been fate … as they had plans to dine elsewhere and made a last-minute decision to Cordivari’s.

The two AtlantiCare heroes and at the DeAngelises had identical 6:00 p.m. reservations.

I don’t believe in coincidences. They were all meant to be at the same place, at the same time. Truth is always stranger than fiction.

“We knew what we had to do. There was a reason for us to be there that night for Frank,” says Gunning.

“The nicest thing was that when Christina and Brandi were leaving, all the customers clapped for them,” says Cordivari. “They were heroes.”

“We didn’t do it for money,” said Muhlbaier. “We did it for our patient. It was a little overwhelming when others in the restaurant gave us a standing ovation as we left.”

“I am forever grateful to Christina and Brandi, Brigantine Police and Fire/EMS Rescue, AtlantiCare paramedics and the entire AtlantiCare team,” said DeAngelis.

“We had just finished a wonderful dinner when it happened,” says Gunning. “We plan to go back for dinner. We hope Frank and Sue can join us this time."

What could have ended with an incalculable tragedy, instead had a very happy ending.

Honoring Real Life Superheroes - Nurses Week 2021

We are so thankful for the nurses who work hard each and every day to keep us safe and provide us with incredible care when we need it the most.


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