2 saves in 6 weeks at Altus AFB: One busy AED

More and more often, cities, towns, and military bases are equipping their first responders (police and fire engines) with automated external defibrillators(AEDs). That’s because when someone collapses from sudden cardiac arrest, life-saving shock from an AED must be delivered within minutes to prevent death.


ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Chief Bruce Zahn, center, recognizes the Airmen, EMS, and Fitness staff who came to his aid Aug. 31. Chief Zahn presented cookies to those who assisted him after he suffered a heart attack at the Fitness Center on Aug. 9. Base commander Col. Ty Thomas also presented commander’s challenge coins to the honorees. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Christopher Arnold/97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs)

The Fire Department on Altus Air Force Base in Altus, Oklahoma, carried out this scenario twice in 6 weeks, using a Powerheart G3 AED to revive an enlisted man August 9 and then a local contractor working on the base Sept. 25.

“We’ve had AEDs on our ambulances for years, but I don’t remember using them in a rescue before,” said Lt. Robert R. Reeve, who led the EMS team that revived the contractor. “Twice in 6 weeks now — that’s pretty amazing.”

news release from Altus AFB public affairs describes how a team led by Captain Terry Huetter was called to the first emergency, August 9, after Chief Master Sergeant Bruce Zahn collapsed while working out on a treadmill at the base’s fitness center. Others at the gym had called 911 and started CPR; Huetter’s team arrived and attached AED pads to the Zahn. The AED advised a shock, and they delivered it. As a second round of CPR was beginning, the victim regained pulse and started breathing.

“I felt nervous mostly. I realized a life was in our hands and we all had to act to have a chance at saving our patient,” Airman 1st Class Devin Leatherman told the base’s public affairs news staff. “I can’t say that there was any one thing that made this work. It was a combination of everyone’s efforts. From the early 911 call to the defibrillation and Jackson County EMS’s response it all came together. It was truly a team effort.”

A county ambulance team arrived and transported the Zahn to the hospital where he underwent triple bypass surgery. By the end of the month, he was well enough to participate in the recognition ceremony for the team involved in the rescue.

The dramatic rescue was cause for celebration on the base, but just six weeks later another cardiac arrest call came in to the fire department. This time a local contractor, a man in his mid-50s, had collapsed at a construction site on the base. Reeve’s team arrived to find him on his back on the concrete slab of a building under construction. One of the building crew had called the fire department, and another contractor had started chest compressions.

“We put on the AED, it advised a shock, and we shocked him,” Reeve said. Then they started CPR. By that time the county ambulance team had arrived with a paramedic who administered drugs, and the victim had a pulse.

“It was almost six weeks to the day after the first save with that same AED,” Reeve said.

Reeve said that the contractor was taken to the local hospital and then airlifted to a regional hospital.

The fire department members on the first rescue were Crew Chief Greg Stewart, Captain Terry Huetter (Lead EMT), Senior Airman Zacharie Miller, and Airman Devin Leatherman. The team on the second rescue included Captain Matt Sands, Captain Brent Beck, Lt. Robert Reeve (lead medic), Airman First Class Cody Thomas, and (again) Airman Devin Leatherman.

Altus AFB had purchased their Powerheart G3 Semi-Automatic AED (automated external defibrillator) through ADS, which sources Cardiac Science AEDs for the military. ADS offers a variety of contracts and purchase options for military customers, and provides logistics solutions including custom warehousing and kitting.

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