Four EMS students recognized for saving lives
Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S. Once a heart stops, despite all efforts by paramedics and emergency medical technicians, it’s extremely rare to get it started again. Even if successful, the patient almost never fully recovers.
That’s why it’s so remarkable that over the past several months, four Palm Beach State Emergency Medical Services students have helped bring cardiac arrest victims back to life in the field. Each student was doing required “clinicals,” with either a county fire rescue station or hospital. Each functioned as a professional. None hung back. They did what they’re trained to do: EMTs perform basic life support, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) using a bag-valve-mask (BVM) device for airway ventilation. Paramedics, with their additional training, perform advanced life support that includes starting intravenous (IV) lines, administering medications and delivering defibrillator shocks.
When the stories of these “saves” started filtering back to Bruce Arbeit, clinical coordinator of PBSC’s EMS programs, he thought something should be done to recognize the students. “There are a lot of great things that go on in our clinicals that never make the six o’clock news, but saving a life is really a big deal,” says Arbeit.
What Arbeit did resulted in a ceremony on April 15 at the Public Safety Training Center on the Lake Worth campus. Jacqueline Rogers, Lake Worth campus dean of health sciences and public safety, and Barbara Cipriano, associate dean for public safety, as well as EMS faculty and staff were present, along with classmates. Each of the four students received a certificate of recognition and a lapel pin saying “I saved a life.”
As each student was pinned by Cipriano, Arbeit told the story:
Zachary Berry, paramedic student, was riding with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Station 30 when a call came in from an urgent care clinic that a 52-year-old male was in cardiac arrest. Berry, as part of the paramedic team, gave IV medication, shocked the patient and did CPR. The patient regained consciousness and was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit. The patient, who was visiting from California, was discharged within two weeks and is now back home with his wife and children. Watch Berry’s video below.
Christian McFarland, emergency medical technician student, was doing a “ride along” with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Station 36 when they were dispatched to a scene where a heroin overdose patient was found face down in cardiac arrest. McFarland worked quickly with the professional team, doing chest compressions and using the bag-valve-mask. They got a pulse and respiration back, and the patient arrived alive at the hospital, eventually walking out. Watch McFarland’s video below.
Dan Moncayo, emergency medical technician student, was riding with Delray Fire Rescue 3 when they responded to a cardiac arrest call. Moncayo jumped in, doing CPR with BVM as the paramedics did the shocks, IV and other advanced life support. The patient had a return of spontaneous respiration and circulation and also walked out of the hospital alive.
Leyna Owen, emergency medical technician student, was doing a clinical rotation at Boca Raton Regional Hospital when a renal failure patient went into cardiac arrest. She responded to the code, racing to the floor, and performed CPR with BVM. Within a short time, she got the patient back to spontaneous respiration and circulation. Even though this occurred in a hospital, such success is also rare.
“What impresses us about these students? They actively got involved. We train 350 students a year and any of them could do this, but when they do it, and they save a life, I just wanted to give them some recognition,” says Arbeit. “If nobody recognizes them or says anything about it, then they think ‘Oh, it’s just another day at the office,’ but it’s really not. It also shows that what we’re teaching them works, and that they’re actually doing what we’re teaching them to do.”
Below: See the photos of the ceremony and watch videos of Berry and McFarland, who describe their experience saving a life.