Six pararescuemen assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron were first responders at a scene during D-M’s Thunder and Lightning over Arizona Open House, April 12, 2014.
During the event, an individual suddenly had a heart attack and fell over. The episode happened directly in front of the 48th RQS display, which expedited life-saving procedures.
“We were all working the static display,” Adam said. “The first thing we heard was somebody screaming and a guy just fell over. Jesse and I both ran up to him, followed by everyone else.”
When they arrived to the patient, they noticed he was unconscious. Since the gentleman had fallen and hit his head, the PJs initially checked to make sure he hadn’t received any injury from the fall then rolled him onto his back to further assess.
Jesse recalled the patient making noises that sounded like his tongue was blocking his airway.
“We rolled him onto his right side to protect his airway,” Jesse said. “As we rolled him over, we witnessed him stop breathing. Adam checked his pulse, which was weak. At that point, we yelled back for gear.”
Kenny brought over a backboard, oxygen, medical pack and monitor.
“Once we realized he wasn’t breathing anymore, we inserted a nasal pharyngeal airway to keep the tongue from blocking his airway, but that wasn’t helping,” Kenny said. “NPA is a small tube that goes in the nose.”
They started ventilating him using a bag valve mask (BVM) and a face mask attachment while the King laryngeal tube was set up.
“We determined that he wasn’t breathing on his own and kept checking his pulse,” Adam said. “We all verified that he had no pulse and at that point started CPR while a few of the other guys started to intubate him.”
Intubation is the process of a tube being inserted into a patient’s airway via the mouth to assist with breathing.
Once intubated, they attached the BVM to the end of the tube and began ventilating him. They then applied pads to analyze the patient’s heart rhythm. They stopped CPR compressions to get an accurate reading on the monitor and saw the patient had ventricular fibrillation. V-fib is a condition when the heart has uncoordinated muscle contractions.
Upon recognizing this, the PJs made the decision to defibrillate the patient. After the initial shock, they immediately resumed compressions.
“I did another 30 compressions on him and then rechecked his pulse,” Adam said. “I checked his carotid, brachial and radial arteries, which were good and strong.”
The patient started breathing on his own after the compressions. The patient was still unconscious, but they stopped ventilating him and gave continuous care.
Not long afterward, the PJs transferred care over to Tucson Fire Department for transport to the hospital.
All the PJs credited their training and paramedic experience for being able to act in this situation. They all agreed that they have never seen someone comeback from cardiac arrest. The patient has a fighting chance to survive thanks to the quick response time by the PJs.
“When something like this happens, it takes at least 15 minutes to get there,” Wes said. “Usually by that point, it’s too late.”