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Going to the Brink : Humble Hero Named Paramedic of Year for Daring Rescue

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Scott Rosenfeld says he was just doing his job. Teetering a hair’s breadth from a four-story drop in West Los Angeles, a woman despondent over chronic medical problems threatened to jump to her death. Tricking her into thinking he just wanted to check her blood pressure, Rosenfeld inched close enough to wrestle the woman to safety--only later realizing that he, too, could have plummeted 40 feet to the pavement.

That sort of trained instinct earned Rosenfeld, 28, recognition this week as the national Paramedic of the Year, an annual award given to paramedics and emergency medical technicians by the Van Nuys-based Emergency Medical Services journal.

Rosenfeld, who grew up in Canoga Park and is stationed in North Hollywood, said Tuesday that “it’s hard for me to think that I did anything more than the average paramedic. My wife thinks I’m the best paramedic in the world, but I consider myself an average paramedic.”

And that, said award judges, is why he won.

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“Scott’s act was just such a good picture of who these people really are, of the unselfishness of emergency medical service providers,” said Marie Nordberg, the journal’s senior editor. “Their first instinct is to help someone else.”

For Rosenfeld, who lives in Thousand Oaks, it is an instinct honed over many years of service to others. Rosenfeld began work as a Los Angeles County lifeguard while he was a student at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, and still does, part time. He also serves on the Volunteer Ski Patrol at the Mountain High ski resort.

Still, until a few years ago, Rosenfeld never pictured himself saving lives for a living. His mind--and his mother’s heart--was set on the traditional paths leading out of business school: a degree, a button-down-collar job and a predictable rise through the corporate ranks.

But as a student at Pierce College, he became certified as an emergency medical technician, to qualify for a higher salary as a lifeguard. “That was a turning point in my scholastic career,” he said. “I didn’t think I could sit behind a desk and be a businessman.”

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His mother, Arlene Levand, has only recently gotten used to the idea.

“I was expecting my son to wear a suit to work every day,” Levand said. “I was disappointed at first, but I figured that’s what he wanted to do with his life and I accepted it. Of course, now I’m thrilled.”

He dropped out of Cal State Northridge and enrolled in paramedic school. After a stint with an Oxnard ambulance company, Rosenfeld was hired onto the Los Angeles Fire Department. It was while on duty in Hollywood that he stumbled into the situation that would earn him the description “hero.”

After dropping off a patient at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West L.A. last year, Rosenfeld and his partner got a radio call that a woman patient was threatening to jump from the hospital’s parking garage.

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As she sat perched on the edge, the woman noticed Rosenfeld and motioned him toward her. She refused to let him get too close, however, and scooted ever nearer the edge as Rosenfeld approached.

So for several minutes, Rosenfeld just sat on his medical box and talked to the woman, listened to her describe her problems and her life, her feeling that no one cared. Finally, he told her that her feelings might be related to low blood pressure and persuaded her to let him approach.

He wrapped the inflatable collar around the woman’s arm and then wrapped himself around her, holding her back from the edge until others could pull the intertwined pair off the ledge. The woman was readmitted to the hospital.

And Rosenfeld went on with his day.

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“Still to this day, I cannot believe that I was named Paramedic of the Year for that,” Rosenfeld said from Las Vegas, where he was presented the award Monday at the annual conference of the American Ambulance Assn.

Despite knowing that he easily could have been pitched over the side as he wrestled with the woman, Rosenfeld said it was far from his most frightening experience. On duty in South Los Angeles, he had guns pulled on him as he tried to help people, and as a lifeguard on Zuma Beach, he has dashed into heavy surf to save struggling swimmers.

But that, said Alan Cowen, chief of the city’s paramedic bureau, is what makes Rosenfeld a model paramedic. “He is the epitome of Los Angeles city paramedics,” Cowen said. “Without even thinking, he put his own life in jeopardy. It’s people like Scott who help you when you need it the most.”


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