JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (April 14, 2022) -- Last April, a Military Emergency Medical Services and Disaster Medicine fellow from Brooke Army Medical Center was on a routine ride-along with Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services when they responded to a 911 call about a 29-year-old female who went into cardiac arrest at a cross fit gym.
On April 5, exactly one year later, Army Capt. (Dr.) Jason Ausman was finally able to meet Tamra Harris, the woman he helped to save.
"When I was working out, I collapsed with a barbell over my head,” Harris said. “It fell down onto my neck and I just kind of collapsed onto the ground. I actually don't have a memory of that. My memory cuts out about two hours before I fell to the ground.”
Two bystanders began performing CPR until Austin-Travis County EMS arrived.
“We got there a couple minutes after the ambulance,” Ausman said. “It was myself, the supervisor I was riding with, the paramedics and firefighters. She was still in cardiac arrest.”
The paramedics on-scene continued CPR and ended up shocking Harris seven or eight times over a 25-minute period.
“We finally got her back,” Ausman said. “It’s amazing because most of the time after about 10 minutes, if you get somebody back, they are most likely going to be brain dead and not have a good outcome.”
Harris also had blood coming out of her mouth because of the injury she sustained from the barbell falling on her. The paramedics were having a hard time getting an airway, so they decided a surgical airway was the best option.
Thankfully, Ausman was there to assist with the procedure.
“On an average week, 80% of what I do is working with paramedics, training them to run cardiac arrests and do procedures,” he explained.
“We teach them how to do a surgical airway, but it’s something that a paramedic might do once in their entire career,” Ausman said. “We show up on scenes regularly to help out and teach. We try to train (EMS personnel) to be an extension of the physician in the field, and to be able to do a lot of the same skills.”
The EMS fellowship is a joint program between San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium and the University of Texas UT Health. This training enables physicians to perform all aspects of EMS medical direction, focusing on continuous quality improvement, and the education of paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
During the first year, the fellows function as assistant medical directors for the City of San Antonio Fire Department and assist other civilian EMS services. The second year of the fellowship focuses on a military-unique curriculum.
“Our program is unique because it’s a two-year fellowship,” Ausman said. “The civilian version is a one-year fellowship.”
Harris is grateful for her second chance, "I'm so grateful that they were there,” she said. “It's great and I get to do whatever I want in life and it's all because of them.”
“I’m very proud that I was there at the right time and able to help,” Ausman said. “Everything just worked out perfectly where we were able to help save her.”
Ausman said the last two years have been tough, especially on health care workers.
“Being able to see the smile on her face and see her go about life is awesome,” he said. “Most of the time we never see the outcome. This was a really nice reminder of why I chose to do this and that I do make a difference in some people’s lives.”