Timing was Everything

  • Published
  • By Capt. Rachel Hughey
  • 130th AW
Charleston, W.Va. - How many times have you sat through additional training on a drill weekend and thought, 'When am I ever going to use this training?' Or passed by the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) without ever giving it a second thought that you might have to use it one day? During drill weekend of August 6 and 7 at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston, W.Va. several members' timing and training came together to save the life of one of their own.

Master Sgt. Bruce Chatterton of the Civil Engineering Squadron (CES) completed his physical fitness test around 8:30 a.m. and after passing, he immediately proceeded for a random urinalysis screening in the Civil Engineering building on the second floor.  Tech Sgt. Mark Haywood, supervisor of the electrical shop, also had a fitness test and urinalysis screening in the same time and location. 

Haywood said, "I came out and saw Tech Sgt. Victoria Grogan, who was in charge of urinalysis testing for CES that day, yelling for someone to help and to call 911.  Based on the fact that he had just completed a fitness test and the color of his skin I knew he was under cardiac arrest so I immediately began Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitations (CPR) and chest compressions and yelled for someone to bring  the AED." 

Master Sgt. Ryan Persinger called the base 911 which quickly dispatched the Fire Department to aid Chatterton until the city could arrive with an ambulance.  1st Sgt. Jeremy Callen, building manager of CES, knew exactly where the AED was located, so he grabbed it and ran it up the stairs as quickly as he could to where Haywood was already doing CPR and prepping Chatterton for the AED. 
Chief Master Sgt. Steven Foster, CES Manager responded also and helped continue compressions.  Once the AED was ready, it called for a shock, everyone stood clear, and waited for it to shock and assess his vitals.  The base fire department arrived within minutes and continued to check his vitals and take over CPR. 

At this point, most of the individuals on the scene saw very little hope for Chatterton's survival.  They continued to listen to the AED which advised no second shock so they administered a bag valve mask at one breath every three to five seconds.  The fire department gave him first breaths of oxygen, which helped his condition tremendously.  Within a few moments, he was taking his own breaths, and Tech Sgt. Jeff Elswick, Assistant Chief of Training for Civil Engineering Fire Department (CEF) checked his pulse, which was much stronger. His blood pressure was not great and he was confused, but he was breathing on his own and they continued giving him oxygen. 

At this time, medics had arrived and took over his care. Foster said, "I've never seen someone's color go from purple to gray and back to pink again in such a short amount of time." 
An interesting chain of events occurred that day to place all the people together that saved his life.  For example, Staff Sgt. Jacob Norris, a firefighter/emergency medical technician (EMT) who arrived on the scene to help, had been teaching CPR 15 minutes before the call came in, and Airman 1st Class Nate Arthur, another firefighter/EMT, was in in the same class. Haywood and Chatterton took a fitness test and had a urinalysis in the same building at the same time..  The firefighters who responded said that they were not supposed to be on base that day but rather training at a different location, but it was moved to a different day. 

These Airmen had the training and awareness of where the AED was located, they reacted quickly, used the tools effectively, and it saved his life.  All of these members who assisted with life-saving techniques credit the training they had received for CPR and the AED to be the key factors in saving his life.
Elswick said, "Those guys made our job easy, they set the stage, they are the real heroes. Out of all the calls I have ever ran he was in the 5 percent that came back that should have never made it, so their early response was key in saving his life." 
Chatterton said, "I am very grateful for what those guys did; they did not waste any time." His son Eric also said, "His doctor told us it was the closest thing to death that she'd ever seen, and that those guys saved his life." 

The members of the 130th Airlift Wing continue to prove valuable to community and country.   They train vigorously, so when things like this happen it is second nature; they practice until they get it right.  On August 6 things could have gone very differently for Chatterton, but thankfully the Airmen around him reacted quickly and used their training to save his life.  Most businesses now have an AED in their facilities, and the 130 AW has 20 AEDs throughout the base.  

Col. Johnny M. Ryan, Wing Commander, recognized the initial responders informally in a formation several hours after the incident took place and said, "These guys are the best, and they come from one of the best squadrons on base.  I am so proud of what they did, and how they did it to save a life." 
Do you know where your businesses' AED is located?  Have you had CPR training in the last two years? Chatterton is alive today because of two key pieces of training, and members of a guard unit who are second to none.  For more information about life saving skills please visit www.redcross.org and click on Training & Certification.