<b>NORFOLK, Va.</b> - Carlos Quinones, a civil engineering technician at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District's Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area, recently had a major "teachable moment" on the job. The lessons learned included how training and worksite equipment combine with fast action to save a life.

At 11:45 a.m, Feb. 8, the superintendent of a spillway replacement contract project at Craney Island, near Portsmouth, Va., called to report that one of his employees had passed out. He said he had called 911 and would meet them at the Craney Island gate to lead them to the site.

"I knew from past experience here that emergency response to our location can sometimes be confusing because of the remote location," Quinones said.

As part of a comprehensive health and safety program, the Norfolk District had installed Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the district headquarters and all district project field offices. Employees at each site were trained as authorized AED responders.

The AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, or an irregular heartbeat. It treats patients through defibrillation -- the application of electricity to stop the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm.

Quinones said he immediately grabbed the AED mounted on the project office wall and drove to the scene to see if he could assist. When he arrived at the scene, he saw the man lying on the ground and someone performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

His training immediately took over.

"I approached the man and noticed that he was barely breathing. I instructed the young man who was administering chest compressions to stop. He was also the victim's stepson and appeared extremely distraught, but he told me he could help if needed," Quinones said.

Quinones said he tried to get the victim to speak, nod his head or even blink, but he could not respond. "His breathing was getting increasingly erratic, and after about two minutes, he stopped breathing," Quinones added.

Quinones checked for a pulse and when there was none, he had the stepson help place the AED pads. Once the pads were in place, the AED scanned the victim's body and audibly informed Quinones to clear area around the patient and administer shock.

"After clearing the area of bystanders, I administered shock and observed a considerable convulsion of the victim's body. I then checked for signs of breathing and a pulse. The victim slowly began breathing and within three to four minutes, regained consciousness," said Quinones.

For the remaining few minutes before the ambulance arrived, Quinones kept talking to the victim to keep him conscious. Once there, the emergency medical team took over.

Quinones, an eight-year Corps veteran who serves as a contracting officer representative and quality assurance inspector at Craney Island, said that while this incident was his first use of the AED, it is a very simple device requiring the user to follow very basic directions.

"The AED is not a panacea for all emergencies or even all cardiac incidents, but the full integration of these potentially life-saving devices into our district health and safety program is very important," stressed Quinones. "We'll use this incident as a teachable moment to inspire, motivate and continue our everyday goal of making Craney Island a safe working environment for all."

Quinones dropped by the hospital later that week to check up on his "recovering patient." Doctors said they expected him to make a full recovery within two weeks.

Page last updated Fri February 12th, 2010 at 09:24