Army employees use recent training to save life
Mike O'Hara (left) and Jody McCourt, both members of Product Manager Forward Looking Infrared, performed CPR and used an Automated External Defibrillator to save the life of a co-worker who had a heart attack in his Fort Belvoir, Va., office on June

FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- On many occasions, members of the acquisition community are recognized for the systems they provide that save lives, but rarely do those same people save lives with their own hands, as was the case on June 18.

While working at his desk in Fort Belvoir, Va., Curtis Ashe collapsed. Ashe is a contractor who provides logistical analysis and support to the Driver Vision Enhancer (DVE) within the Product Manager Forward Looking Infrared (PM FLIR) office.

"I could hear something fall off his desk, something fell," said Jody McCourt, 2nd Generation FLIR project leader and one of two men who ultimately provided life-saving aid to Ashe. "I called 911 and gave them all of the necessary information, than I ran over to Curtis' desk and there he was lying prone on the ground."

McCourt immediately noticed that Ashe was having trouble breathing and decided to run and get the newly installed Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Once McCourt pulled the device from its box an alarm went off, alerting others in the building and led a co-worker to notify Mike O'Hara of the situation. O'Hara is a support contractor who serves as the operations officer for PM FLIR.

When O'Hara arrived on the scene, he found McCourt unbuttoning Ashe's shirt and preparing to use the AED on Ashe. Since McCourt had turned the device on when it was removed from the wall, it didn't need as much time to power up. The two responders attached the pads of the AED to Ashe and waited for the machine to display instructions.

"Right away it told us to stand clear while it performed the analysis, and took about five seconds to do that, and then it said to start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)," said McCourt. The machine did not recognize any sign of a heartbeat, so the duo began performing CPR. O'Hara monitored the machine and relayed instructions to McCourt as he performed CPR.

After performing CPR, the device again instructed the responders to stand clear as it analyzed Ashe. With no heartbeat detectable, the system notified them to prepare for a shock to Ashe.

"Jody yelled 'stand clear' and made sure everybody was off, and then I shocked him," said O'Hara. After the electric stimulus, the men resumed CPR for the next cycle, and then the AED preformed the next analysis. The system directed a second shock. "I hit the button again, at which time he started breathing better after the second hit."

Shortly after the second shock was administered, Fort Belvoir paramedics arrived on the scene and, as they prepared to take him to a medical facility, collected information from O'Hara regarding the approximate time elapsed since Ashe went into distress and the number of times he was shocked.

The actions of O'Hara and McCourt may not have been possible without the installation of the AED system in their office and a voluntary training program the two completed just a month before Ashe's heart attack.

After a similar incident in an adjacent building last year, Lt. Col. Edward Stawowczyk, Product Manager FLIR, decided to procure an AED device and arrange for training for employees of his PM as well as his higher headquarters Project Manager Night Vision/ Reconnaissance Target Acquisition (PM NV/RSTA).

"We received training on AED and CPR on May 28, and coincidently Mike and I were partners working on the 'Resuscitation Annie' dummy together," said McCourt. "It was just unbelievable that Mike, from one end of the building, came all the way down here and was my partner working on Curtis after receiving that training together."

"It was odd because we felt very comfortable due to the fact that we were paired together during the training period," noted O'Hara.

According to the American Heart Association, "If bystander CPR is not provided, a sudden cardiac arrest victim's chances of survival falls seven percent to 10 percent for every minute of delay until defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation are successful if CPR and defibrillation are not provided within minutes of collapse."

Since the day of the incident, both men have been told they are heroes, but they humbly attribute the outcome to the training and equipment provided.

"The outstanding job Jody and Mike displayed by remaining calm and stepping up to save the life of their co-worker is truly commendable," said Col. Linda Herbert, Project Manager NV/RSTA. "Having the right equipment, training and quick reaction of these Army team members enabled the saving of one of our own."

Based on the success that the training and AED yielded, several members of both PM NV/RSTA and PM FLIR have been signing up for the next classes of CPR/AED training.

Page last updated Fri June 26th, 2009 at 11:56