About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
Three codes, three days, three saves
It’s been an unusual week for members of the Fredericksburg Fire Department. Its crews were called to three codes on three consecutive days, and all three resulted in saves.
One local medic said he’s been in the business for more than 20 years and had never heard of three saves in a row.
“To bring them back to where they have a pulse and are breathing, that is very unusual,” added Natatia Bledsoe, spokeswoman for the fire department.
A code is shorthand way of describing a patient in serious trouble. It means that the patient has stopped breathing and doesn’t have a pulse. It’s obviously a life-threatening situation that requires CPR and a portable defibrillator. Usually the outcome is not good.
“Once you start CPR, you’re essentially working on a dead person so your save rate is not that good,” Bledsoe said.
For fire personnel, the string of saves began at the downtown train station. Bledsoe offered these details about the three incidents:
* The first happened Saturday, March 19, at about 7 a.m., when Amtrak personnel called ahead and asked if someone could meet them at the station. A passenger on one of their trains was ill. The woman, believed to be in her 80s, was traveling with her husband when her heart stopped. Three doctors on board started CPR and used the onboard defibrillator. Members of the fire department took over CPR and gave her medications. The woman was breathing and had a pulse when they got her to the hospital.
* The second call came from the 909 Saloon, a new restaurant on Caroline Street downtown. (It used to be called Basil’s.) A woman in her 60s collapsed in the restaurant at about 3:30 p.m., Sunday, March 20. People in the restaurant had started CPR when the fire crew got there. The crew gave her at least two shocks from a defibrillator. She too was breathing and had a pulse when they got her to the hospital.
* The third call happened Monday, March 21, at about 3:30 p.m. at the dental office of Dr. Robert McGrail on Jefferson Davis Highway. A woman in her 60s collapsed during dental work. The office staff started CPR and used a defibrillator. Fire department personnel also gave the woman one shock from a defibrillator. She too recovered.
Early CPR by bystanders and the use of portable defibrillators were critical in all three saves, Bledsoe said. Don’t forget that the American Heart Association is now recommending hands-only CPR for laypeople. The association hopes that the public will get more involved with this simpler form of CPR that calls for compressions only and does not require giving breaths.