New York Bohra Physician Saves Referee From Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Dr. Mustafa Poonawala, a member of the Dawoodi Bohras of New York, was recently honored by the town of Oyster Bay, Long Island, for his efforts in helping save the life of a football referee who collapsed on the field during a game between East Meadow High School and Farmingdale High School.

Dr. Poonawala recently graduated from New York Institute of Technology’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. In March 2020, as a medical student, he was assisting his professor Dr. Matthew Heller, a sports medicine physician, in providing medical coverage during the football game. Dr. Poonawala, along with Dr. Heller, rushed to the referee’s side after seeing him suddenly fall face down to the ground. After noting that the referee was unresponsive, they initiated CPR and with the help of two athletic trainers, applied chest compressions using an automated external defibrillator, or AED.

“I quickly put together the bag valve mask to provide respiratory support to the referee. Thankfully, he regained consciousness a few minutes later,” Dr. Poonawala says. The referee, a firefighter for the last 40 years, was transported immediately to the hospital and recovered soon after. 

In recognition of their lifesaving efforts, Dr. Poonawala accepted a citation from the Town of Oyster Bay, along with others involved in the emergency medical efforts. “I’m happy to have been able to use my training and skills to help save someone’s life. This is why I chose to become a doctor,” says Dr. Poonawala. 

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