When a Teammate Saves Your Life

Who would have thought a lesson they learned as Jumbos baseball players would make all the difference 20 years later?

How do you let someone who has saved your life know what it means to you? For Adam Kacamburas, A04, it starts with keeping your longtime friend and former Jumbos baseball teammate, Frank Giliberti, A04, in the dark for a few years while you plan something special to honor him. In this audio story, the two friends, with some help from their pal Dave Frew, A04, recount the day in 2019 when a golf outing turned suddenly harrowing, and the day in 2024 that celebrated a hero.

tuftsuniversity · When a Teammate Saves Your Life


Julie Flaherty: Frank Giliberti, Adam Kacamburas, and Dave Frew, all members of the Class of 2004, met as players on the Jumbos baseball team and have been friends for more than half their lives. They’ve been to each other’s weddings, celebrated the births of their children—Adam even introduced Dave to his future wife. 

And every spring, if they can, they get together for the annual Tufts Baseball Alumni Golf Tournament. It’s always a fun day with the same stories and, of course, Frank’s practical jokes, like the time he decided to drop marshmallows on the course.

Frank Giliberti: People come up over the hill, they think they hit a great shot, and then they walk up to a marshmallow, and they’re all dejected.

Flaherty: A photo of the tournament from 2019 shows the friends with their pal Bob Kenny, standing shoulder to shoulder, beaming for the camera. 

Giliberti: That’s the foursome right there.

Adam Kacamburas and Dave Frew: May 3.

Giliberti: May 3, yeah.

Flaherty: None of them will ever forget the date, because that was the day that Adam, a 37-year-old father of two, nearly lost his life. 

Kacamburas: We were finishing up the round actually, on our very last hole, heading back to the clubhouse. We were all going to get our own balls and hit our next shot. I got tremendously dizzy and that was, in all honesty, the last thing I remember.

Giliberti: I was walking up to my ball and I just remember him yelling, Frank, I don’t feel right. I looked over and he was down on his knees. So I start walking towards him and then next thing, he had collapsed. 

Flaherty: At this point, it’s important to know that Frank is not just a baseball player and a golfer and practical joker. He’s also a firefighter. 

His father was the longtime fire chief in Medford, and Dave remembers that even as a student at Tufts, Frank had a CB radio to listen in on emergency calls. 

Frew: We’re hanging out in the dorm room, and there would be an alarm on the CB goes off and Frank is like, do you want to go and watch?

Giliberti:  Remember Capen and Winthrop Street? We were at practice and we see a big plume of smoke. You hear the fire engines. And I couldn’t wait to get out of practice that day.

Frank Gilberti and Adam Kacamburas with Giliberti's wife and children

Giliberti’s three daughters, all under the age of six, were too young to understand what the party at the field was about. “But one of these years when they get older and I bring them, it’ll hit home to them,” he said.

Flaherty: Frank joined the Medford Fire Department right after graduation and is now a deputy chief himself. 

And so against the odds, Adam was steps away from a first responder when he collapsed on the golf course in 2019.

Frew: Adam’s on the ground, he’s convulsing, he’s shaking. Frankie thinks he’s in a seizure.

Giliberti: Once I felt that the pulse was getting weaker and then he had no pulse, I’m like, this definitely isn’t a seizure.

a nurse showing the hand position for CPR

Performing CPR can double or even triple a person’s chances of surviving cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association offers training resources, including videos on hands-only CPR and ways to find a class near you. The Tufts Department of Public Safety also offers a course for faculty, staff, and students on CPR and how to use an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED.

Frew: And he immediately started going into CPR.

Giliberti: After that, it was kind of all like a blur.

Frew: I can still hear everything. He was yelling at Adam: Stay with me, you’re OK, come on buddy, all that kind of stuff. He never panicked. 

Flaherty: With emergency response on the way, Dave called Adam’s wife, Kelly. 

Frew: And I’m on the phone with her while her husband’s—there was probably 30 to 60 seconds where he wasn’t breathing. 

Flaherty: Frank doesn’t even know how long he kept the compressions going.

Giliberti: It could have been, what, 5, 10 minutes maybe? It’s like, time slows down. It’s weird. The whole time I’m thinking of Kelly and the boys, but it was hard. It’s a lot different when it’s someone you know and you care about.

Flaherty: Frank had performed CPR before as part of his job, but he knew that the statistics were not in his favor. 

Giliberti: We’ve gotten some people to come back, fortunately, but most times it’s not the case.

Flaherty: As soon as the ambulance team arrived, they prepared to shock Adam’s heart. 

Frew: And just as the AED was about to fire, Frankie got Adam’s heart working again. 

Flaherty: What was it like when Adam came back?

Giliberti: Definitely a huge relief, right? A little—I’m going to choke up here a little bit, but—

Flaherty: At the hospital, the doctors said Adam’s chances of surviving the attack had been about 2 percent. They eventually discovered that the cardiac arrest was brought on by a genetic condition Adam didn’t know he had.

Kacamburas: Had no history of anything like that. No signs from anyone in my family carrying the gene. It doesn’t necessarily manifest itself. It’s been in a certain way a blessing, too, because having kids of my own and having family members that needed to go get checked out, that now we’ve identified also have that gene, they can get the proactive care that they need to make sure this does not happen to them, or should it happen to them that they have the appropriate safety measures—a defibrillator or something of that nature—to prevent it from killing them.

Baseball alumn donors stand together on the field

Greg Hickey, A04, Randy Newsom, A04, Nick Palange, A04, Frank Giliberti, A04, Adam Kacamburas, A04, Dave Frew, 04, and Bob Kenny, A05. Together with Drew Blewett, A04, the baseball alumni from the Class of 2004 donated more than $100,000 to name the press box.

Flaherty: Now fast forward a few years. The friends learned that Tufts was raising funds to make major improvements to the baseball park, the one they had spent so much time at as players. Adam gave Dave a call.

Frew: He’s like, I want to do something in honor of Frankie at the stadium. Do you think we can get the class together to do something?

Flaherty: Dave and Adam reached out to the other baseball alumni from their year. Led by a generous donation from Randy Newsom, six of them contributed more than $100,000 dollars to build a new press box. They even tapped Frank for a contribution, so he would feel included. 

Kacamburas: We had to lie to Frank and say that it was on behalf of the Class of 2004, so we hit him up as well. 

Flaherty: But the secret was that the press box would really be named for Frank. 

They kept the plan hush-hush right up until April 19 of this year, when it was time for the big reveal. As they gathered at the ballpark for the dedication, Frank, who was still in the dark, noticed there were too many familiar faces in the crowd.

Giliberti: So my aunt and uncle come walking up and I’m like, what the heck are they doing here? And then my parents show up and I’m like, all right. Then a couple guys from work and I’m like, all right, something’s off here. 

Flaherty: But he said he didn’t know what was going on until he walked up the stairs to the press box and saw his name, Frank Giliberti III, on the plaque. 

Frew (over loudspeaker): Frank Giliberti, then a captain on the Medford Fire Department, heroically began CPR without a moment’s hesitation—

Giliberti: I was in shock, and some tears in my eyes, and definitely an honor, and I will be thankful the rest of my life for that.

“How hard are you going to work when people aren’t watching? Are you going to be able to execute when the time comes because you’ve done everything behind the scenes to be prepared?"

Adam Kacamburas, A04

Flaherty: As part of the surprise, Adam and Dave had invited Frank’s fellow Medford firefighters to the event.

Frew (over loudspeaker): At this time, we would like to take a moment to recognize all current and retired firefighters and first responders for the work you do so selflessly everyday—

Giliberti: That was awesome. Them being able to be here, experience that. Because any one of them, if they were there that day, they would’ve done the same thing.

Flaherty: At the end of the dedication, Frank and Adam threw out the first pitch to Adam’s sons. Adam says he’s proud that the boys will be able to see the plaque whenever they come to the park to watch the Jumbos play.

Kacamburas:  They know what a hero Frankie is. They know that their dad wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. 

Flaherty: Adam points out that even though Frank had been trained in CPR, that didn’t mean that everything would work out in the clutch. The former teammates think the fact that it did goes back to something they learned on the ball field, drilled into them by their coach, the legendary John Casey.

Giliberti: Coach Casey, what’s the biggest thing he always said? Attention to detail, right? And still to this day, every day I’m at work, I say it to myself: attention to detail, the little things matter.

Kacamburas: And we probably rolled our eyes a little bit when it happened and maybe didn’t have an appreciation for it. But I think it’s about how hard are you going to work when people aren’t watching? Are you going to be able to execute when the time comes because you’ve done everything behind the scenes to be prepared? Have you paid attention to those details? Being able to do it when the spotlight is on you is because you’ve done all the little things when it wasn’t. And so I’m very thankful that Frankie is who he is all the time. That’s why I’m still here. And it’s why this story had a happy ending.

Giliberti: So who would’ve ever thought that Coach Casey saying that, right, in the locker room on a Saturday morning fall ball, would apply today 20 years later? But it does.

Giliberti and Kacamburas stand outside the press box

Giliberti and Kacamburas stand outside the press box just after the big reveal.

Kacamburas: This is probably one of the few instances we’ve actually talked about what happened that day, for a lot of reasons. It can be overwhelming, I think, for both of us. But there’s an understanding, I think, between friends of just how appreciative I am. I know how much it means to him, too. To our families. So thanks.

Giliberti: Love ya.

Kacamburas: Love you.


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