AFMC Command News

72nd MDG physician assistant delivers CPR at home

  • Published
  • By Paul Shirk
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The skills and quick actions of a physician assistant assigned to the 72nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron potentially saved a life on Sept. 30, 2020.

First Lt. Aaron O’Meara and his girlfriend, Erica Arellano, who had just received a food delivery in the lobby of their apartment, discovered an unconscious man struggling to breathe in the elevator.

O’Meara determined the man was unresponsive and proceeded to drag him out of the elevator so that he could safely assess him. At the same time, Arellano called 911.

“I realized he wasn’t breathing,” O’Meara said. “He just had some agonal gasps, meaning he was sort of making the effort to breathe but not getting a full breath.”

Unable to find a pulse, O’Meara began CPR compressions while instructing the apartment’s security guard to go find an automatic external defibrillator.

When the security guard returned, unable to find an AED, O’Meara and the security guard took turns doing compressions. As there was no breath valve mask available and the man was covered in vomit, compression-only CPR was performed.

“If you do not have a physical barrier to protect yourself against infection and safely perform breaths for a patient, the next best option is to perform compression only CPR. You can also try and tilt their head back and thrust their jaw forward to open the airway as much as possible,” O’Meara said.

When Emergency Medical Services arrived, O’Meara handed over care, gave a rundown of what happened, assisted with securing the scene and performed other hands-on work as needed.

As EMS continued working on the man, O’Meara looked at the heart rate monitor as the medics yelled out “V-Fib.”

“Ventricular fibrillation,” O’Meara said. “Your heart’s not contracting, you’re not having any pulse, it’s just shaking and quivering. They shocked him, I believe, two times on scene.”

O’Meara said that after the second shock, the man went into sinus tachycardia, meaning that they were able to find an identifiable rhythm.

As an Air Force physician assistant, O’Meara had previously only performed CPR during training and certifications.

“It’s definitely an adrenaline rush,” O’Meara said. “It’s a take a deep breath and think ‘oh my gosh, this is really happening’ kind of thing.”

He added, “But it all clicked, it went well. It was just frustrating that I didn’t have the proper tools. I would love to have had an AED, a bag valve mask, to be able to deliver respirations and to be able to initiate defibrillation…it was just frustrating that we couldn’t get that going for EMS before they got there.”

The last thing O’Meara knows is that the man was alive when EMS took him to the hospital. The man was not a resident of the apartment and could only be identified as a John Doe.

“I’m happy we found him and at least gave him a chance,” O’Meara said. “We got a pulse back on scene so he had a fighting chance at that point.”