FREELAND, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A local priest is recovering from a health scare that left him on the brink of death. He was stricken ill at the gym during a workout and he would not have survived if not for the quick actions of staff and fellow gym members. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller sat down with the priest to talk about the near-death ordeal.
“I had angels. No doubt with faith.” It was Holy Thursday of Easter week when Rev. Gary Mensinger survived the scare of his life. “I didn’t know what happened until I woke up at the ICU.”
The 49-year-old pastor of Saint Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Pittston And Saint Nicholas Parish in Swoyersville is recovering after surviving a heart attack. It could have killed him if not for those angels as he calls them who came to his aid when he was stricken ill after a workout at Pro Fitness in Moosic. “And when I think about it, I cry,” he said.
Father Gary had just gotten off a treadmill and was walking to the other side of the gym to grab a wipe and clean off the exercise equipment he used. That’s the last thing he remembered.
Retired Scranton Police Officer Fred Curry was working out that day at Pro Fitness and saw Father Gary collapse. “I just quickly recognized that he was having a heart attack and not a seizure like some of the people thought he might be having at the time.”
Father Gary’s angels sprang to action by first calling 911. “And then I started the chest compressions,” said Rhonda May who scrambled from the front desk to begin CPR while another gym member provided artificial resuscitation. Father Gary’s personal trainer, Ryan Duffy, ran for an AED to deliver an electric shock if needed.
These so-called angels kept Father Gary alive until an ambulance crew arrived. Ms. May said, “I was here for a reason, that I was here, that I was meant to help him.” Mr. Duffy added, “Right place, right time. And with our training it was an awesome outcome and I’m really happy about that.”
Those who helped save Father Gary’s life were presented a first responder award April 10 by Moosic Borough Council. Fr. Gary has been a priest for nearly 20 years. Known for his love of animals, he now has a renewed love for life and for the people who helped make his still possible. “The people at the gym saved my life, the EMT’s and first responders… I can’t thank enough.”
Father Gary is now beginning cardiac rehab. He hopes to return to his parishes — and the gym — by late May or June.