Workers at the Juneau International Airport were recognized by the fire department Thursday for helping rescue a man who went into cardiac arrest while sitting in the airport’s luggage claim waiting area. The man recovered after receiving CPR and being shocked by a portable defibrillator.
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During an informal ceremony in an airport conference room, not far from where the unidentified man collapsed while waiting for his daughter’s plane to arrive on May 10, Capital City Fire and Rescue awarded seven bystanders and 13 CCFR members with certificates of appreciation and commemorative coins.
“We’re family now, we got to get in close here,” one of the firefighters told Cleveland Mitchell, one of the awardees, pulling him in for a hug as the group posed for pictures.
CCFR Captain Mark Fuette credited the patient’s survival to the “quick actions” and teamwork of the 20-some people involved in the rescue. He thanked everyone from the Goldbelt Security Services officer and Avis Rental Car employee who called 911, to the Alaska Airlines employee who performed CPR, to the 911 dispatchers who provided “calm, clear instructions” on how to hook the defibrillator up to the patient, to the EMTs who provided advanced cardiac arrest life support.
“This was truly a remarkable sudden cardiac arrest save,” he said.
CCFR EMTs both on and off duty responded to the scene within three minutes of the 911 call. When they got there, Alaska Airlines employee Lourdes Ebron was performing hands-only CPR and the defibrillator was already hooked up to the patient’s body.
“All the first responding crew member had to do was push the shock button,” Fuette added.
Within 10 minutes, the patient was conscious and attempting to sit up. He was rushed to Bartlett Regional Hospital where he stayed overnight.
The patient’s identity remains unknown. CCFR said they lost contact with him after he was admitted to the hospital, but they knew he survived the ordeal and that he even went back to the airport to thank the people who saved him. CCFR believes the man to be a business owner and “snowbird” who lives and works in Juneau seasonally.
CCFR EMS Training Officer Sandi Kelly said even though Thursday’s ceremony was belated, CCFR wanted to make sure to thank all the citizen and professional responders.
“Something that we want folks to recognize is that you as bystanders, you are ultimately as important as the professional rescuers are because you get the chain started,” she said to the group after handing out the awards. “What you do makes a significant difference in the outcome of the patient.”
Kelly said she hopes this will encourage other bystanders to act if they ever find themselves in a similar position. She cited American Heart Association statistics that show not enough people act when they see someone collapse; only 40 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander even though it can double or triple a patient’s chances of surviving, she said.
“Don’t be afraid,” she encouraged. “Your actions can only help.”