News: First responders awarded for saving life
Story by Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Nine Cherry Point emergency personnel were awarded here March 27 for actions that directly resulted in saving an active duty Marine’s life on Sept. 26.
Assistant chief Nicholas Salter, firefighter paramedics Benjamin Leither and Michael Spencer, and firefighters Raymond Bane and Clayton Turner received the Lifesaving Award from Col. Philip J. Zimmerman, commanding officer of Cherry Point. Four others were recognized with letters of appreciation for providing support that enabled the first responders to do their job.
At the corner of Roosevelt and Slocum, a Marine and his daughter who had just finished exercising got in a car to go home. Moments later, the Marine went into cardiac arrest. His car left the road, striking a tree at low speed. First responders arrived two minutes after the call for help and saved the Marine’s life, resuscitating him on the scene and quickly transporting him to the hospital for further care. Several days later, he walked out of the hospital under his own power.
“We arrived on the scene right by the railroad tracks on Slocum Road just off of Roosevelt,” said Salter. “There was a male patient on the side of the road in the grassy area with a bystander performing CPR on him.”
Salter instructed the Samaritan to continue CPR, and Leither took command of the situation.
“My role was the initial paramedic on scene, so it was my patient to treat and ensure adequate care through transport,” he said.
As the lead paramedic, Leither worked to quickly assess the situation as fellow first responders continued CPR and attached a heart monitor to the victim. They determined defibrillation was the correct course and were able to get the Marine’s heart pumping on its own. After about 10 minutes on scene, the ambulance spirited the patient away to Carolina East Medical Center in New Bern.
Cherry Point’s emergency personnel train hard year-round to keep their lifesaving skills sharp for situations like this where a life depends on their correct and timely response.
“We are constantly training in the department,” said Salter. “The average number of hours our personnel receive training in a four-year period is 500 to 600 hours.”
The training emphasizes focus on investigation and reaction and improves efficiency in the field. When there is a life in the balance, first responders cannot afford to get flustered or distracted. One acronym they use to help assess and formulate an initial diagnosis is SAMPLE; emergency personnel try to learn the patient’s signs and symptoms, allergies, medications, past medical history, last oral intake and events leading up to the injury.
“It is a priority for us to try to find answers,” said Leither. “We ask certain questions so we can paint a picture and provide that to the medical professionals at the hospital to let them know what’s going on.”
On Cherry Point, there are always two ambulances on stand-by, each staffed by one EMT basic and one EMT paramedic, ready to save a life at a moment’s notice. Zimmerman said the entire emergency system is something he takes pride in.
“We’re very proud of the people we recognized today, but overall, those are only a small portion of the fire and EMS services we have on base,” he said. “It’s really all the other people who support them as well who were standing their watches that enabled the force we were able to send. It’s their commitment to training and taking care of the people on this base that really makes the fire department and the EMS special and something that I’m proud of on a daily basis.”