From the heart: Cabarrus celebrates life with a song

Sound of Music star Dan Truhitte and nurse Pamela Petrea perform "How Great Thou Art." Petrea...
Sound of Music star Dan Truhitte and nurse Pamela Petrea perform "How Great Thou Art." Petrea performed CPR on Truhitte when he went into cardiac arrest in June, 2022.(Submitted photo)
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 6:21 AM EST
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CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The return of Cabarrus County’s Hearts and Heroes in-person event brought out nearly 300 community members to celebrate lifesaving care.

Gratitude, joy and song filled the Laureate Center at Kannapolis City Hall as out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survivors were reunited with the bystanders, medical staff and first responders who performed lifesaving interventions. Following a two-year COVID-related hiatus, Thursday’s celebration was a reminder of the importance of warm embraces, sturdy handshakes and face-to-face “thank yous.”

Cabarrus County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Atrium Health Cabarrus collaborated on the event, which celebrated 21 success stories from 2022.

One of those stories involved well-known Concord resident Daniel Truhitte. Truhitte portrayed the character of Rolf in 1965′s “The Sound of Music.”

In June 2022, Truhitte and his wife, Tarealia, attended the funeral of a friend at Forest Hill United Methodist Church in Concord. Shortly after arriving, Truhitte went into cardiac arrest.

Longtime nurse Pamela Petrea was in attendance. The funeral service had asked her to fill in as organist that day. In a video played during Thursday’s event, Petrea called her presence at the funeral ‘the first miracle” of the day.

When she arrived and began her warmup, Petrea noticed a problem with one of the organ keys. She moved to a piano stationed in front of the pews. That was the second miracle, she said in the video.

From the piano, Petrea had a clear view and saw the Truhittes enter the sanctuary. She smiled at the couple.

Daniel Truhitte noticed the smile and asked his wife if they knew her. Tarealia assumed that the pianist had played with Daniel at some point.

Moments after the couple got settled in their normal spot, Daniel looked at his wife. “I’m dizzy,” he said. “I think something’s …”

Petrea immediately noticed something wrong. She rushed to their pew and loosened Truhitte’s tie to feel for a pulse. Nothing. She and others laid him down on the hard pew (there were no cushions —Petrea knew that would help with compressions) and got to work.

First responders soon arrived and took over. Truhitte ultimately recovered at Atrium Health Cabarrus.

While Truhitte and Petrea have talked on the phone, they had not seen each other for several months when they came together for the event. And since both have a musical background, they performed a stirring rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”

The performance drew a standing ovation.

The applause continued throughout the night as other “hearts” and “heroes” were called to the front of the room for recognition. For some, it was the first time they’d seen each other since the cardiac arrest.

“The most beautiful thing about Hearts and Heroes is that it simplifies one of the most basic human needs: love,” EMS Deputy Chief Justin Brines told the crowd. “Everyone has a heart. Everyone can be a hero. We are surrounded by a room full of heroes and the hearts that still beat because of several acts of love. We celebrate moments in which husbands, wives, parents, colleagues, passers-by, medical staff and first responders walked into a moment and impacted a life.”

Other agencies honored at the event included Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office, Concord Fire Department, Kannapolis Fire Department, Kannapolis Police Department, Concord Police Department, Mount Pleasant Fire Department, Odell Fire Department, Midland Fire and Rescue, Cabarrus County Fire Services Squad 410, Town of Harrisburg Fire Department and Atrium Health Cabarrus.

“Even after 10 years, this event continues to be a great source of pride for me,” EMS Chief Jimmy Lentz said following the event. “I’m proud of the incredible dedication this team puts forth to serve the citizens of Cabarrus County. Together with the other organizations honored here tonight, they make a difference in this community each and every day.”

CPR training available

Many of Thursday’s honorees were bystanders who began care before first responders arrived. Brines reminded the crowd to spread the word about EMS’ participation in a Duke University research trial called RACE-CARS. The trial aims to improve survival from sudden cardiac arrest. Through a training video, viewers can learn four methods to save a life from cardiac arrest. Watch the video here:

Residents can request CPR training by emailing or calling 704-920-2600.