I was asked to write a letter about the events of August 24, 2006. Unless you have lived such a day, time is irrelevant, and memory is mixed with what you are later told your actions where, along with what you think you did, and what you wish you had done. From my youth in boy scouting “Be Prepared” has echoed in my ears, I decided many years ago to do everything I could to try and live that motto. So this is my letter:
“To every man, there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared and unqualified for the work that would be his finest hour." -Sir Winston Churchill 1942
August 24, 2006 started as any Thursday, but it would prove to be my finest hour. By the grace of God and all my experiences, many from scouting, I was able to perform a high standard of CPR and keep a young man alive until paramedics arrived. By chance, I had my pager on “scan all” instead of the Company 7 frequency, where I am a volunteer firefighter and EMT. At around 11:20 am my pager went off with a call for “Unknown Medical” at the Parks and Recreation building next door. I expected it would be for a sprained ankle or bloody nose, since the P&R is busy all summer with sporting events for youth out of school.
Knowing that it may be awhile before the ambulance and paramedic unit could come from the other side of town, I decided to take a walk over to see if I could assist. The company I work for, Z-Medica, respects the need for emergency response and allows me to respond to calls. When I was on the way there, an updated call came in, stating that it was an unconscious teenager on the basketball court and so I decided to take the first aid kit in my car (Be Prepared) with me as I now started to hurry because teenagers don’t go unconscious unless something bad happens!
I knocked on the back door entrance to the basketball court, and when it opened, I was surprised to see a young man on the floor with several people standing over him, along with one person holding his legs up in the air. When I asked what was the problem was, they said that he had passed out and was breathing irregularly. He was slightly blue and gasping (agonal breathing or what people have called the last gasp).
My many years of training by the American Heart Association went into action and I went into automatic mode. I was able to assess the young man’s condition. I asked a bystander to inform 911 and the medical units that we had a cardiac arrest, that I was performing CPR, and to come to the back door. I believe I also told someone else to make sure the door was open and to ensure they knew where to come in. For the last five years, I have carried on my belt a holder with gloves and a CPR mask given to me by a fellow Boy Scout leader from Troop 28 and a Meriden firefighter. (Be Prepared.)
I had just completed the AHA train the trainer 2005 standards that changed CPR to 2 breaths and 30 compressions. (Be Prepared.) I was able to do this for three cycles until the now alerted medics arrived. Fortune that day sent four full paramedics with all the tools and training to perform the next link in the chain.
They set up a defibrillator and administered drugs, along with gaining an airway with full O2. At this time, I became an assistant as the shock was administered from the AED and our young victim’s heart was restarted. The three most beautiful scenes I have seen in my life were when two sons came into the world—and when that screen showed a heart beat after the shock.
The young man was then transported to the hospital.
I said a prayer for his recovery, hit the reset button, cleaned up (took my gloves off), and went back to work. The odds for survival are not high unless many factors take place, but I knew in my heart I did everything that I could do. Still, I was afraid that it was too long of a time that he was down.
When I went back to the office, I called my wife Tracey who is a nurse and let her know what happened. She is one of the few people in my life who understands the stress and pain that comes with emergency situations.
When I went home, Tracey was waiting for me with a big hug and open heart, we talked awhile and I then broke down and cried my heart out as a parent thinking of my two boys and how precious life is. I was also thinking how unfair it seems at times. I can tell you, you either cry and get it out or hold it in and blow up.
We went out on our back deck to talk some more and pray for a good outcome. Just as we finished, we both saw a meteor streak through the sky. Tracey said it was a sign that he (I still did not know his name nine hours after the event) would be okay. I also felt in my heart that things would be better than other incidents, but did not want to build myself up just yet.
It was not until the next day that I talked to Chief Tim Wall and I found out Mike’s name and that he had made it through the night with a good chance of a fair recovery. Words cannot describe the feeling of joy I felt at that time. Later that day Chief Struble called me personally and told be about Mike’s condition and that the prognosis was good for a healthy recovery.
I realized my whole life had been steering me to do that one thing in life worth doing. Even though I am a member of the fire department and on many calls for medical emergencies, car accidents and other horrible incidents, that was always part of a team response and the outcome could either be success or failure, life or death. I will always be haunted by some cases that are untimely and seem terribly unfair. I pray every night for the strength and clarity of mind to do my best when called upon, wishing it would not come, but knowing that I belong to the few who respond to the horrors of what humans can do, and other sudden emergencies, knowing the next one is just a tick of the clock away.
I’ve been told I’m a hero…the paper even put it in the headlines in print. I personally don’t consider myself a hero, but what I do know is this:
On that fateful day, I was a firefighter, EMT, father, and yes, a Boy Scout who was prepared.
On that day, as Sir Winston Churchill stated, I was tapped on the shoulder and was prepared to do what was needed to be done. Yes, we may never need to use CPR or an AED and I pray that is so. But the next time, it may be someone very close to you, a complete stranger, or, it may be you! So please take this challenge and “Be Prepared.”
By Bob Huebner
Nominated by Joan Papale, Wallingford, CT