The revived 65-year-old Clark resident was believed to be recovering and receiving further treatment in Billings on Wednesday. His name was not available.
Emergency responders sometimes refer to their work as coordinating a kind of big dance, where everyone’s movements are in sync and united in one life-saving mission.
“That happened that day for that gentleman from beginning to end,” said Dana Brumley. She was one of three Powell Valley Healthcare EMTs who joined forces with law enforcement and helpful bystanders to save the man’s life.
“Even though we do perform the same dance (each time), sometimes that outcome is out of our hands,” Brumley said. “But this time, this time was good.”
Tuesday’s dance started around 1:59 p.m. as something of a sprint, when the call came in of the unresponsive man.
“We all literally ran to the ambulance, because those calls are always ... (it) makes your heart beat a little faster,” Brumley said.
When the EMTs arrived at Blair’s Market, they found Park County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Hartman and a bystander already assisting the fallen man, with several Powell police officers also arriving to lend a hand.
The man had apparently suffered a heart attack while getting into his truck. A family member had tried helping him breathe, but it was a complete stranger — whose name the EMTs and police don’t know — who began performing the chest compressions that likely helped save his life.
“It was really cool pulling up and seeing someone (had) started CPR,” said Justin “Mace” Hailey, another of the EMTs.
“That just shows that early intervention by an educated public makes all the difference,” said Brumley. “Because ... it would be a big guessing game as to his survival had they not started CPR immediately.”
The ambulance crew, led by EMT-I Geoff Hovivian, immediately went to work and followed a plan they’d discussed on the drive over.
Hailey grabbed the medical equipment and prepared for any advanced care that was needed; Brumley and one of the officers took over the CPR (her on compressions, him providing ventilations); and Hovivian applied a cardiac monitor.
The monitor found the man’s heart was in ventricular fibrillation — a fatal condition where the heart’s muscles just quiver instead of beating in a methodical top-to-bottom fashion.
CPR was paused and Hovivian applied a shock from the defibrillator. CPR resumed.
The man was then loaded onto a stretcher and into the ambulance with the help of police. The three EMTs continued providing CPR in the back of the vehicle while an officer drove.
“We started losing him again in the rig,” Brumley said, but during the ride back, “he came around,” Hovivian said.
In a business where every second can count, the crew was back at the hospital with their patient just 10 minutes after the initial call. They were met by an already-prepared “Code Blue” team, which helped take over the man’s care.
The three EMTs say it was a team effort and any of their co-workers would have done the same thing.
Hovivian said it’s a strong team of medical responders and they always get a helping hand from law enforcement.
The officers involved in Tuesday’s rescue dropped by the hospital a little later to say hello to the man.
“All those officers came in and said, ‘We’re glad you’re with us,’ and said goodbye to him before he went to Billings. That was cool,” Brumley said. “You kind of get an instant bond when you save somebody’s life.”
The bond apparently worked both ways.
“It meant a lot to him, because his eyes just filled up a little bit and he said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’” Brumley said.
The good Samaritan who started CPR also stopped by; he was too late to see the man, but was excited to hear he’d made it, Brumley said.
“The (chance of a positive) outcome of a cardiac arrest is very slim, so the times that we actually do have a successful resuscitation, it’s always a joyous day — just the fact that that person’s going to live to see another day,” Hovivian said.
Hailey said a good call like Tuesday’s “definitely helps you bounce back from a call where you couldn’t help somebody.”
Brumley said it’s a reminder that the job is worth the training, late nights and bad weather — though she also said EMTs have to roll with whatever comes their way.
“Because guess what? The next call that comes out, you go again, and it doesn’t matter what just happened on the last call,” Brumley said. “You go again on the next call with new hope.”