By Jan Clark (Tripler Army Medical Center)October 5, 2010
TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Hawaii - One could feel the pride sizzle in the air on the afternoon of Sept. 30 as Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. alighted from his vehicle at Tripler Army Medical Center and proceeded to present an Army Achievement Medal and a Meritorious Civilian Service Award to two men whose quick actions back in January saved a life.
Casey, visiting TAMC as a part of a whirlwind trip to numerous commands on island, honored Spc. Matthew Belot and retired Sgt. 1st Class Roy Ridgeway for their actions on Jan. 21 that saved the life of co-worker and TAMC protocol officer, Joel Jenkins, when he collapsed outside TAMC's oceanside entrance.
Standing in front of the hospital visiting with long-time friend Jenkins as he awaited the arrival of a visiting general officer, Ridgeway began texting on his phone. When Jenkins crouched down, Ridgeway at first believed he was stretching as he had completed a 20-mile run the weekend before. Next, Jenkins fell back, was unconscious and was having difficulty breathing. Ridgeway went into action, kneeling beside his friend, but could not get him to respond.
"I called for help and asked for a code to be called to the front of the hospital. I rolled Joel into the recovery position and monitored him. His breathing stopped and I called for an Automated External Defibrillator and rolled him onto his back," said Ridgeway.
Capt. Andrew Schlussel, general surgery resident, began chest compressions as Ridgeway performed mouth-to-mouth.
Belot, 19, a health care specialist (68W) and a private at the time, heard the CODE BLUE as he was preparing to go home after a long day on the job.
"This was the first time I responded to a CODE and it happened so fast. I rushed outside and then immediately back to get the AED and returned to the patient. I exposed the chest and applied the pads as CPR was being performed," Belot said.
The sudden cardiac death experience affected not only Jenkins but those of the men who stepped forward to save it.
"This was my first experience with a patient in distress. I realized that day how important my job as a medic is. The following day I went to TAMC's Directorate of Health Education and Training and requested more advanced training - which I now have," said Belot.
For Ridgeway it was a reminder.
"I am truly fortunate to serve with the great ohana here at Tripler. I want to thank everyone for being so responsive, absolutely dedicated to their jobs and taking such good care of Joel," he said.
And for Jenkins, an ultra-distance runner who maintains an extremely high level of fitness, he recovered quickly due to a healthy lifestyle. He was able to complete a 50-kilometer running event that supported the Wounded Warrior Project just four short months later, and he knows why.
"This is a real testament of the importance of learning Basic Life Support and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. The fact that a then private had the presence of mind to grab the AED and knew exactly how to implement it was key to my survival - that and of course, having Roy right there. I am extremely grateful he was there when the event occurred. And I'm extremely grateful as well that General Casey would honor these two men during his visit. It makes it all the better," said Jenkins.
NOTE: CPR classes are available at the following locations by calling:
Hickam/Pearl Harbor - 808-499-0166
Schofield Barracks - 808-655-4927
Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base - 808-257-8848