By Maj. Gregory McElwainMarch 19, 2018
PHILADELPHIA -- On March 15, Spc. Trevor Tompkins arrived at Philadelphia International Airport to pick up his mother. She was flying in to be with her father after his major heart attack the day before.
Tompkins was waiting for the plane to land when he noticed an airport employee trying to rouse an elderly man in the terminal.
Tompkins, a combat medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, ran over to the man and helped lower him safely to the ground, while announcing that he was a trained medic.
"My first thought was, 'Oh no, this guy is having a heart attack,'" said Tompkins, of Penns Creek, Pennsylvania.
He shouted for someone to call 911 and asked for the Automated External Defibrillator. Tompkins instantly began CPR.
James Lutey, a Customs and Border Protection Officer with Homeland Security, arrived shortly after Tompkins started chest compressions and rescue breathing.
"When I got on scene, he was getting out the AED and hooking it up. I assisted, but he directed everything. It was clear he was experienced," Lutey said.
For 15 minutes Tompkins worked between the AED and CPR to resuscitate the man.
"I put my heart into this; my biggest fear was losing him," Tompkins said. "Of course there was anxiety; I did not want to lose this guy. When I was treating him, it hit close to home, because my grandfather just suffered a major heart attack the day before."
"It was muscle memory, it worked like clockwork," he said, speaking of his medical platoon with the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment Infantry. "Last month we did CPR retraining to stay current. Being a medic is a perishable skill. We all have civilian jobs, I am a sales [representative] for a home building company, I have no medical practice outside of the Army. When we have drill, we train hard. There is a lot of muscle memory."
After a few minutes, Tompkins regained the pulse and the individual began breathing on his own. Tompkins rolled him over onto his side and put him in the recovery position so that he could maintain a clear airway.
"I was elated that I had restored his pulse, but I monitored him every 15 seconds. I knew I may have to start CPR again," Tompkins said.
As they waited for EMS to arrive, Lutey noticed that Tompkins had absolute control and maintained professionalism the entire time. "It is clear that he is well-trained and is able to perform admirably in uniform and outside of his military duties," Lutey said.
No one in the gathering crowd had a suction device, so Tompkins adapted to overcome the challenge. "The man was aspirating. He had a partially blocked airway so I tried to clear his airway," he said. "I was working to create a suction device out of an eyedropper bottle and straw, but then EMS arrived."
Edward Troy, a Homeland Security Special Agent, witnessed the resuscitation and watched as Tompkins handed over responsibility and care of the man to EMS. "He used professional terminology that the EMS crew understood. If I could be one-tenth as professional and calm as he was during an emergency, I would feel lucky," Troy said.
Special Agent Troy presented Tompkins with a challenge coin to commend him on his actions.
"At the end of the day I was just doing my job," Tompkins said. "When you see someone go down, it is just second nature. As a medic, you are the deciding factor whether or not they get to go home. I wanted to make sure that this guy went home."
Troy said that many in the crowd were shaking Tompkins' hand and thanking him for his quick thinking. "He just kept saying, 'This is my job.' Tompkins is mature beyond his years, very calm, cool, and collected."