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Young EMT working catering at a wedding saves pastor's life after he collapsed while delivering vows

Valeria Franco performed chest compressions by herself without any EMT equipment for roughly half an hour before the paramedics arrived.

Young EMT working catering at a wedding saves pastor's life after he collapsed while delivering vows
Cover Image Source: Youtube / NBC10 Philadelphia

Weddings are one of the happiest days in your life and you want everything—from flowers and decorations to the tables and outfits—to be perfect. The days leading up to it generate many emotions including wedding jitters, a feeling of overwhelmingness and anxiety. One couple's wedding almost turned into a nightmare as the pastor collapsed while delivering the vows. At the wedding of a New Jersey couple, their pastor collapsed at the altar while in the middle of delivering the wedding vows at the Great Falls Center last month. "I said it would require patience, love, kindness and then I passed out," Rev. Anthony Palmer told NBC New York. Palmer went into cardiac arrest but lucky for him, a stranger at the event saved his life.

Valeria Franco, an EMT  in West Paterson, was catering for the wedding. Her mother, Brenda—who was also working at the event—screamed for help from her daughter. "Go now, go do it, that's your thing, they’re waiting for you," Brenda recalled telling her daughter.


Franco performed chest compressions by herself without any EMT equipment for roughly half an hour until the paramedics arrived on the scene. Palmer survived the cardiac arrest and is now recuperating. City officials are unsure as to why it took so long for the paramedics to arrive but assured reporters that they are looking into the matter. Palmer and Franco reunited on January 10 during which she was praised for saving his life. Palmer is now a living testament to Franco's training and skill. "Hopefully people will see this and be inspired to be an EMT or take CPR training," Paterson Mayor Andrew Sayegh said, who gave the EMT a certificate for her life-saving act.

Meanwhile, the couple who were to wed that day moved on to the cocktail hour after Palmer was treated and are yet to say their vows. Palmer shared that he wants to complete their nuptials at their Ridgewood home sometime in the future.


In a story similar to Palmer ad Franco, a teenager from Massachusetts saved a toddler's life with a little help from Michael Scott from "The Office." Savennah Mendes-Rodrigues credited a scene from the sitcom where the employees are taught to perform CPR chest compressions to the tune of the Bee Gees song "Stayin Alive" for teaching her how to perform the procedure correctly on a family friend's 2-year-old son who fell into her pool in August 2022.

"The episode of 'The Office' definitely helped me with the rhythm," Mendes-Rodrigues told NBC after being lauded for her heroism. "I was calm in the situation, but for someone who might not be calm, I think it would be really easy to just kind of lose sight of what you’re doing and either be too quick or too slow when you’re doing your chest compressions. So, that episode of ‘The Office’ kind of just helped to make sure you’re doing it correctly as far as depth and speed.”

Mendes-Rodrigues stated that she kept doing CPR until the boy started breathing on his own. She and her elder sister were in their bedroom at their Abington house when they suddenly heard their mother yelling. The sisters rushed outside to help after recognizing the fear in their mother's voice. “Low and behold, all I see is a little boy just lying on the kitchen floor,” Mendes-Rodrigues said.  


“I actually didn’t even realize that I saved someone’s life until after the fact,” she said. “One of the firefighters mentioned it and I was like, ‘Oh, OK. Good to know.’” As part of their "Heroes Among Us" campaign, the Boston Celtics praised Mendes-Rodrigues on December 27, 2022, by giving her an award at center court during their game. Moreover, she was also honored with the Heartsaver Hero Award by the American Heart Association, a leader in CPR training. Barry Gibb, the lead vocalist of the Bee Gees, also congratulated her as she accepted the honor during a video presentation.

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