Linda Bridges has returned to her desk at MS Technology Inc. after a four-month absence.
To Kurt Oschman, MSTI president and chief executive officer, that is a miracle resulting from the training and collaboration of her co-workers and the first responders from the Oak Ridge Fire Department who saved her life.
The story of Bridges’ miracle began Feb. 25, when she collapsed at her desk. Co-workers quickly called 911, and two co-workers began assessing her vital signs. At one point, she had stopped breathing and had no pulse.
“With excellent collaboration on decisions about appropriate first aid for Linda’s condition, Michael Beehan began administering CPR, with Karen Hamilton providing on-the-ground assistance,” Oschman wrote in the company’s recent newsletter. The two determined that Bridges needed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and then Hamilton continued to check Bridges’ vital signs as Beehan provided CPR.
Beehan had received training from the city for several summers when he worked during college with the Oak Ridge summer recreation program. He carried a CPR face shield with him daily to work.
Other co-workers pitched in: one looked up the ratio of compressions to breaths on her i-Phone and counted compressions, another went to the street and waved her arms to direct firefighters to the office, while others helped to turn Bridges over, alerted her family, and prayed.
Minutes are critical to the survival of sudden cardiac arrest, and quick reaction in those early minutes contributed to Bridges’ survival after her apparent cardiac arrest that left her without a pulse. Emergency responders hope that civilians will start CPR before they arrive.
“The link in the survival chain is the civilian responder,” said Oak Ridge Fire Department Battalion Chief David Harrington. “If we go out and teach CPR to businesses, to the public, to lifeguards, we are adding a solid link to that chain of survival. When an emergency occurs, a sudden cardiac arrest, that civilian is not apprehensive about jumping in and starting that CPR.”
Minutes after her co-workers started CPR on Bridges, five Oak Ridge firefighters arrived. Captain Ray Burney, Firefighter Ryan Cole, both paramedics, and Firefighters Michael Vanosdale, Mike Morrow, and Robert Payne, who are advanced emergency medical technicians, took over, using a defibrillator, intubating her to control breathing, starting an IV for medications, and continuing CPR until her heart rhythm was restored.
“To provide advanced life support, you really need a minimum of three trained responders,” Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley said. “Someone is doing compressions, someone is ventilating, and someone is preparing the drugs.”
All Oak Ridge fire engines have advanced cardiac support equipment, and the department sends a minimum of three trained responders to an emergency. All Oak Ridge engine companies have at least one paramedic, and all other firefighters are trained as advanced emergency medical technicians.
Burney and Cole rode with Bridges in the Anderson County Emergency Medical Service ambulance that took Bridges to Methodist Medical Center, where other links in the survival chain took over. Harrington said those include the hospital’s emergency department, physicians, those who work in the intensive care unit, in the rehab center, and in ongoing cardiac rehabilitation.
“It is not just a 10-minute event for us,” Harrington said. “We are setting that tone for what is going to happen for months, even years, ahead.”
On May 6, MSTI invited Oak Ridge firefighters to join the staff in celebrating the miracle of Bridges’ recovery. Firefighters receive medals when they are successful in saving a life and a patient recovers without neurological damage, and they honor civilians who participate in life saving efforts.
“We thanked them for having the courage to act, the willingness to step up,” said Oak Ridge Assistant Fire Chief Josh Waldo. In the past 14 months, he said, firefighters have saved the lives of eight people, a significant number, and in four cases, civilians had already started CPR.
“By all accounts—first responders, hospital staff, and attending physicians—the efforts of Michael and Karen saved Linda’s life,” Oschman said.
Bridges, who is 67, first met the firefighters who saved her life at the May 6 ceremony, and she said she continues to hear stories about what happened that day. She spent 28 days in Methodist Medical Center before entering rehab at the Patricia Neal Center, and she is still in cardiac rehabilitation.
“To say ‘Thank you for saving my life,’ is not enough,” said Bridges, MSTI office manager. “There are not words to express the amount of gratitude that you have. Had Michael not done what he did, and Karen, who helped him, I wouldn’t be here.”
Bridges had the opportunity to thank everyone who helped her and to present medals and plaques on May 6. Chief Kerley and Mayor Warren Gooch were misty-eyed during the ceremony, as was Bridges.
“When I was able to present each one of the firefighters with their medals, it was all I could do to keep from crying,” Bridges said. “When I presented plaques to Michael and Karen, I couldn’t keep from crying. They are both very special to me.
“I can just see God’s hands in all of this. I am so thankful that Michael had that training and wasn’t afraid to use it,” she said.
Bridges also heard stories of the ICU nurse who sat at her beside and talked to her one night, sure that Bridges was about to wake up from her coma, and she did.
“I woke up talking. That’s what people said. Mike (her husband) says I haven’t stopped since,” she laughed.
Bridges and her husband Mike have both had CPR training through their motorcycle chapter, the Goldwing Road Riders Association, Chapter B. She introduced a moment of levity in the ceremony, thanks to her knowledge of CPR.
“Which one of your guys broke my rib?” she asked the firefighters. “I always heard if you don’t break ribs (when doing CPR), you aren’t doing it right.” She had a big hug for Michael Vanosdale, now with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Fire Department, who admitted he was the one.
After Bridges’ emergency, Oschman invited the Fire Department to return to teach a CPR course for 10 MSTI employees,
“We all felt inadequate, in essence, and wanted to make sure we are better prepared for next time,” Oschman said. And an automated external defibrillator now hangs on the wall in the MSTI kitchen. It’s an expense that Chief Kerley encourages businesses to consider.
“An AED makes a huge difference,” Kerley said, adding that the cost is about $1,200, affordable when considering the value of a life.
Note: Kurt Oschman asked Kay Brookshire to write this article in thanks to the Oak Ridge Fire Department, and in hopes of encouraging other businesses to train employees in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and to invest in an automated external defibrillator in case of emergency. Brookshire is the mother of Michael Beehan, whose CPR training helped save his co-worker’s life. For information from the Oak Ridge Fire Department on providing CPR training in the workplace, contact Battalion Chief David Harrington at (865) 388-2357.
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