My wife, Jana, and I, along with our sons, Kody and Tyler, were finally on the way for our family dive trip and vacation. After long delays, we were excited to be in a short line for the gate agent to check us in for our destination. While waiting, we heard a scream for help and an airport employee yelling for a medic. Kody had recently graduated as an emergency medical technician (EMT), so he and I ran toward the yelling and saw a man on the ground. I did a quick scan to ensure the area was safe and to see if there were other victims or signs of bleeding or other trauma. There was only one victim and no other signs of visible trauma. A man to his right was trying to get a radial pulse, and several bystanders were watching to his left.
I said we were EMTs and asked the bystanders if we could get next to the victim to assess him and try to help. We could hear agonal respirations as I began taking a carotid pulse while checking for responsiveness. Getting no pulse or response, I confirmed with the other man that he had found no radial pulse. I shouted for someone to call 911 for emergency medical services (EMS) and to bring us an automated external defibrillator (AED); I was told that EMS was coming and an airport staff member was getting an AED.
The situation warranted CPR. Even though I had performed CPR before, I was hit with the same reality as always: The outcome is never certain, but we had to try. I took a deep breath to slow my own heart rate and concentrate on the task. The other man helping us obviously had some previous experience based on his composure, initial intervention and willingness to help. I looked to him and said, “We are going to do CPR.” Without hesitation he nodded and said, “Just tell me what to do.”
As I exposed the victim’s chest, airport staff arrived with an AED. I asked the other man to begin compressions while I set up the AED, reminding him to push hard and fast for 30 compressions. After I made sure his hands were in the correct position above the xiphoid process of the sternum, he began compressions while I worked quickly to turn on the AED and place the pads on the victim. Kody got the pocket mask from the AED kit and was ready to give rescue breaths after opening the victim’s airway with the head-tilt, chin-lift method.
After the man counted to 30 compressions, Kody attempted to give the first rescue breath. I did not feel or see adequate chest rise, so Kody adjusted the victim’s airway to open it more and got a slight rise with the second breath. After I performed the next set of compressions, Kody gave him two more breaths. The victim’s chest rise now signaled an open airway.
As I began the third set of compressions, the AED announced it was analyzing, so I loudly said, “Clear the patient.” The AED said to deliver a shock. I repeated “clear,” visually confirmed we were clear of the patient, said “delivering shock” and pressed the shock button. Expecting the victim to jolt, we were surprised when nothing happened; the AED said to check the pads. I asked the man to resume compressions while I checked the cables and pads. The plug was inserted securely, the cable appeared intact, but I found one pad not firmly attached to the victim’s upper right chest. Pressing firmly, I stuck it back down.
The terminal was starting to get noisy. We continued with CPR, alternating who delivered compressions every set to keep the quality high and our fatigue low. I asked a staff member and Tyler, who had now arrived, to repeat what the AED said so we didn’t miss any prompts amid the noise. Despite the busy background around us, we were operating as a team with clear communication.
The AED alerted us to shock again, so we got clear and delivered the shock. The victim’s body jolted from the ground as expected this time, but we still had no response from the victim, and the AED advised us to continue CPR.
Keep your CPR skills current. Contact DAN® to find a certification or refresher course near you. I teach this class many times throughout the year, and many students aren’t aware how often CPR skills are used, usually on family and friends.
Communicate. Even though we didn’t know everyone’s skill level while arriving on the scene, we were able to work together to help the victim and each other.
Breathe and stay calm. During an emergency your composure and ability to stay calm in the moment is key to helping your victim and your team.
Share. CPR will not always go perfectly. You may have to adapt and overcome some hurdles, but sharing your experience helps others build their knowledge base and be better prepared for the unexpected.
After we delivered two more sets of compressions and another shock, the victim’s right hand moved. We looked at each other in surprise to confirm what we saw. I immediately checked and found a pulse. The victim reached toward his chest and began groaning but couldn’t respond to our questions. He started to roll, scratching at my arm and trying to bite us. Still not responding to our commands to remain calm or his wife’s voice, he was growing more and more combative.
The EMS unit arrived with the police and began helping us secure him as I gave them a brief summary of events. Paramedics gave the victim a sedative, hooked up their equipment and secured him on a stretcher to whisk him away in the ambulance.
After taking a moment to gather ourselves, our team gave our information to the EMS and police, followed by some high fives and hugs of relief. Our teamwork, communication and training paid off and helped save a life.
© Alert Diver — Q3 Summer 2019