Fitness center employee comes to aid of heart attack victim

Fitness center employee comes to aid of heart attack victim

Rich Curry

An ordinary day working at the fitness center turned into a life-and-death test of first-aid skills for a Reservist with the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

Tech. Sgt. Marvin Lewis was working active-duty mandays at the fitness center March 17, just as he had been doing on and off for the past three years. Everything was quiet until late that afternoon when a patron rushed up to the front desk and reported that someone was having a heart attack.

“A 50-year-old civil service employee from the base was playing racquetball with two friends from the 552nd Air Control Wing when he collapsed on the court,” Sergeant Lewis said.

After calling 911, the sergeant dashed back to the racquetball court to see what he could do to help. He found Tech Sgts. Alan George and Doug Keller, who had been playing racquetball with the civilian, along with another patron, Senior Master Sgt. Dana Williamson, also of the 552nd ACW, administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the victim.

“I was stunned,” Sergeant Lewis said. “I’ve been working at the center off and on for the past three years. I knew this guy for a couple of years.”

Sergeant Lewis ran back to the front desk area to grab an automated external defibrillator from the wall and then dashed back to the court. AEDs are a fairly recent addition to major work centers at Tinker AFB. They are small, lightweight devices that can rapidly diagnose a person’s heart rhythm through special pads placed on the torso.

An AED can detect ventricular fibrillation, also known as “sudden cardiac arrest.” If SCA is present, the device will advise and actually talk the responder through some very simple steps to defibrillate the victim. AEDs are designed to be used by lay rescuers or “first responders.”

Ironically, Sergeant Lewis said, he had received training on how to use the device just two days earlier.

“I remember during the course thinking to myself, ‘I’ll never need to use this thing,'” he said. “That was the best 30 minutes of training I’ve ever received from the military!”

While the others kept performing CPR, Sergeant Lewis applied the pads to the victim’s chest and turned on the AED.

“The great thing about these units is they do it all,” he said. “They try to detect a heartbeat, and a voice tells you if you need to administer a shock.”

For a moment, it seemed like the man was not going to need a shock from the defibrillator, Sergeant Lewis said.

“He was fading in and out. The CPR looked like it was working, and he seemed to come out of it. But then he went back to unconsciousness.”

That’s when the AED said to “stand clear” and gave the instructions to “administer shock,” Sergeant Lewis said.

Only one shock was needed to get the patient’s heart beating normally again.

A few moments later, base firefighters and security police arrived on the scene and took over to provide oxygen to the victim until an ambulance arrived to transport him to a local hospital.

The next day a friend of the victim came to the fitness center to tell Sergeant Lewis that the man was doing a lot better. A little more than a week after the incident, Sergeant Lewis and the rest of the rescuers attended an awards presentation ceremony, sponsored by the American Heart Association, at the hospital.

(Major Curry is chief of public affairs for the 507th ARW at Tinker AFB.)

COPYRIGHT 2004 Air Force Reserves

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group