Unsung Heroes in Our Midst

Original post, March 8, 2017

Think about it. You work in the VOA Newsroom or in one of the VOA language services, and suddenly, without warning, one of your colleagues experiences respiratory failure and becomes unresponsive. Faced with this medical crisis, other than calling 911 immediately, what would you do in those intervening moments before the EMT help would arrive?

Not so far-fetched because that’s what actually happened on Wednesday, February 15th in the VOA newsroom. Fortunately for the employee concerned, Paula Hickey, a member of the Digital Asset Processing unit and a member of the AFGE Local 1812 Executive Board, just happened to be in the area. Hearing the commotion, she came over and immediately began applying the knowledge and skills she had learned from her EMT training and then began applying CPR. Another employee assisted Paula while a colleague made the call to 911.

During a crisis like this, time seems to stand still. According to a witness, it seemed like at least five minutes before the nurse arrived and another five minutes before the Fire Department’s EMTs arrived. In the meantime, Paula continued applying life-saving aid until the EMTs could take full charge of the situation. According to experts administering CPR while waiting for paramedics to arrive could be crucial in ensuring that the victim’s brain receives oxygen and his or her neurological functions remain intact.

A co-worker of the VOA Newsroom accompanied the stricken employee in the ambulance to the hospital and notified relatives.

It is heartening to know that quick-thinking and trained fellow employees were able to step in and save the life of a colleague. We especially want to acknowledge Paula for her actions. We commend her for taking the time to learn such life-saving skills that proved invaluable in this crisis. According to one witness, “Paula was like a rock star” in taking charge and exerting command of the situation until medical help could arrive. Those without the requisite skills in resuscitation and stabilization could only wish that they had the skills to do what she did as she methodically determined that the employee had a pulse but was not breathing and then started to apply the appropriate life-saving first aid required.

Experts among firefighters and police have stated that the time before paramedics arrive on the scene is the most critical because the brain is not receiving normal blood profusion. Quick action, as what happened in the VOA newsroom, increases the chances for survival. Administering CPR and especially electric shocks from a defibrillator, if necessary, make it much more likely neurological functions will remain intact.

This may be a good time for management to take a look at offering CPR training to those employees who wish to take it and also to check if defibrillators on hand are in good working condition as well as making sure that first-aid supplies in the language divisions are in a handy place and accessible. Paula has suggested that these kits include: gloves, protective eyeglasses, CPR pocket masks, tourniquets, splints and other necessary material for emergencies that no one can predict when they will happen.

AFGE Local 1812 is glad to report that the employee who suffered the respiratory failure has been released from the hospital, is now at home and doing well.

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