Right place, right skills

CPR, defibrillator crucial in two local life-saving incidents

From left, Durango Police Sgts. Bobby Taylor and David Longenette used an automated external defibrillator to save a man who collapsed at a local restaurant. Registered nurse Cherie Naffziger and plastic surgeon Ryan Naffziger used CPR to revive a man at Durango Mountain Resort. Both techniques are good to know, local experts say. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

From left, Durango Police Sgts. Bobby Taylor and David Longenette used an automated external defibrillator to save a man who collapsed at a local restaurant. Registered nurse Cherie Naffziger and plastic surgeon Ryan Naffziger used CPR to revive a man at Durango Mountain Resort. Both techniques are good to know, local experts say.

Two Durango police officers and a husband and wife in the medical field proved in separate incidents recently how emergency resuscitation training can save a life.

Police Sgts. Bobby Taylor and David Longenette applied an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to an 88-year-old man who collapsed in a restaurant.

Dr. Ryan Naffziger, a plastic surgeon in Durango, and his wife, Cherie, a registered nurse in the emergency room at Mercy Regional Medical Center, used cardiopulmonary resuscitation to save an elderly man felled by sudden cardiac arrest.

The ability to apply CPR or use a defibrillator is invaluable, J.T. Coyne, program coordinator for Heart Safe La Plata, said last week.

“The beauty of an AED is that the technology is so simple,” Coyne said. “It has a voice guide that tells you what to do.”

Heart Safe La Plata started in 2003 when four emergency medical technicians created a network to put the automated defibrillators within easy reach – and train people to use them.

Today, there are 256 AEDs in La Plata County and four in Silverton, Coyne said. They’re found in government buildings, retail stores, churches, schools and all law-enforcement vehicles.

Longenette and Taylor arrived with AEDs within one minute of learning that a man had collapsed at C.J.’s Diner.

A patron, who found the man had no pulse, had started CPR. The officers, who delivered a shock from the AED, in turn were relieved by Durango Fire & Rescue Authority paramedics.

The 88-year-old man, a tourist from Cleveland, was resuscitated and transported to Mercy Regional Medical Center.

Neither Taylor nor Longenette had used an AED in a real-life situation. But their AED and CPR training, which is refreshed annually, stood them in good stead.

In the other incident, the Naffzigers were at a social event at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort when an elderly man collapsed behind their table.

Cherie Naffziger knelt to check the man’s pulse while her husband checked his breathing. As she did chest compressions, he kept the victim’s airway open.

The victim, a visitor from Santa Fe, survived with nothing worse than a few cracked ribs, which is normal when chest compressions are applied.

The Naffzigers visited the man and his family on a recent visit to Santa Fe.

The AED distribution has been very successful, said Scott Soles, chairman of the La Plata County Emergency Medical Services Council and president of the Heart Safe board of directors.

“We got a (Health Resources and Services Administration) grant early on, but unlike four other recipients, we didn’t give away the AEDs,” Sholes said. “We asked for a buy-in– half of the $1,800 cost – from the receiving site. We also train their employees.

“The community response has been positive,” Sholes said. “In 2009, the International Association of Fire Chiefs recognized our Heart Safe as the outstanding program for cities under 100,000 population.”

Knowledge of CPR and AED use go hand-in-hand, Coyne said.

“There are no symptoms in sudden cardiac arrest – no chest pains, no back pains – just a collapse,” Coyne said. “And usually there is no AED immediately at hand.”

If the victim is not breathing, CPR should be started, Coyne said. When an AED is applied to the chest, the instrument’s voice guide will say whether a shock should be administered.

Sudden cardiac arrest produces fibrillation – an irregular, unnatural heart rhythm, Coyne said. An AED shock stops the fibrillation.

“Seventy-five percent of the time, the heart will start on its own,” Coyne said.

If CPR continues, the AED checks every two minutes to see if the heart rhythm is normal, Coyne said. The voice guide again will say if a shock is needed.

“There’s no risk,” Coyne said. “There will be no shock if it’s not required.”

daler@durangoherald.com