News: Aircraft carrier XO recognizes NSW corpsman’s heroism
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Capt. Mark Colombo, the executive officer of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal to a Navy corpsman attached to an East Coast SEAL team, March 28.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class John Cope received the award for providing life saving medical assistance to Colombo after he suffered a heart attack while exercising at a local YMCA, Feb. 10.
“I had the extreme pleasure to meet Petty Officer Cope at the YMCA when I tapped out on the treadmill,” said Capt. Colombo, jokingly. “Basically I had a heart attack, and he was there – thankfully on my behalf - to revive me.”
Cope said the day began unassumingly.
“My daughter takes swimming lessons at the YMCA,” said Cope. He was watching a youth swim event when the gym staff started to panic and grab emergency medical gear.
Thinking he might be able to help, he followed them to an unconscious man who had collapsed in front of the aerobics room. Cope notified the staff of his medical training and took charge of the situation.
Assisted by a female nurse anesthetist, Cope began to work on the patient.
“Initially he was dead. He had no pulse and was not breathing, clinically speaking, that’s dead,” said Cope.
Cope administered CPR while the staff retrieved an automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses potentially threatening cardiac arrhythmia in a patient and treats them through electrical therapy.
“I cleared everyone off the patient and administered a shock,” said Cope.
He and the nurse resumed CPR and were able to find an irregular pulse, explained Cope. He said first responder police chose to defer to him, because of his qualification, until paramedics arrived.
Once the paramedics arrived and took authority of the scene, he took Colombo’s two young children into a nearby office to see after their well-being. After a few questions, the son told Cope that their father was a captain in the Navy.
“As soon as I found out he was in the Navy, it struck even closer to my heart,” said Cope. “I willingly watched the children until a family friend came and picked them up.”
Cope continued to check in on the captain following the incident and said his recovery was going well.
“Had I not been there, and had that nurse not been there, I don’t know what the outcome would have been,” said Cope. “It’s imperative that people become trained and stay current in CPR.”
Cope said that although he was just doing his job, the experience has validated his life’s work.
“All ten years I’ve spent as a corpsman and every second I’ve spent studying, it was all worth it,” he said.