RBCERTAA Board Member Helps Save a Life


May 30, 2008

It was around 1pm, on a Friday afternoon. I was driving up the 5 Freeway near the Glendale freeway, I noticed a big rig tractor driving about 65-70 in the fast lane. There was smoke/dust coming up from the tires. Hmmm..."His truck is hugging the center and driving fast. Is he drunk?" I thought to myself. "No, that's white smoke from the tires hitting the center divider. He must be passed out." He starts to move from the #1 lane to the #2 lane, cars are steering clear from him. and as he is continuing quickly down the freeway, I notice that the freeway will be turning to the right up ahead. He is going to hit the center divider and a) go through it, b) go over it, or c) hit it and come to a stop. I watch and he does hit the center divider, his left front tire turns in, and the truck skids to a stop.


I immediately pick up the cell phone, call 911, and phone in the location and what happened. I stop my car in front of the big rig (far enough to be out of harms way), and run back to offer assistance. I arrive at the truck and it is stopped right next to the concrete center divider. The hood is open, the engine is still running and there is liquid leaking from it. There is a man already standing on top of the concrete divider looking into the window and he tells me that the driver is unconscious. I immediately tell him to shut off the engine. He does. I notice that a small compartment on the side of the truck has a sticker that reads, "Fire Extinguisher Inside." I try to open it, and it's locked. I ask the man at the window to give me the keys, I open up the compartment and pull out the fire extinguisher. I give it to another man who is standing near the front of the truck watching and tell him, "Watch the engine and use this if you need to."


I climb up on the center divider, put the keys back in the ignition, and check on the driver. He's passed out, head hung forward, and having labored breathing. I shake him and shout, and he's not waking up. I know that I need to keep his airway clear, and to do this, I need to get him out of the truck. I tell the first volunteer, "We need to get him out of the truck." He says, "He might be hurt." I respond, "He had his seat belt on, he's not hurt from the crash, and we need to open his airway." The first responder asks, "Do you know CPR?" I respond "Yes."


We then work together to get him out of the truck, onto the ground. Another volunteer runs up with a towel to put under his head. I tilt his head back to keep his airway clear. I do not see him breathing. I check for a pulse. I do not feel a pulse. I start giving chest compressions, as I do I notice he starts labored breathing again. He's breathing, he must have a heartbeat, I think.


At about this time, another volunteer comes running up with a case in each hand. He says, "I'm an off-duty paramedic." He opens his case with his oxygen bottle. I help assemble the oxygen bottle as he inserts an airway into the patient. He then opens up his second case, it's an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator). He uses his scissors to cut the patient's t-shirt, uses a razor to shave the hair where the pads will go. He attaches the pads, and turns on the AED. As this is happening, a highway patrol officer shows up, looks down at us, and the paramedic tells the officer, "I'm an off-duty paramedic." The officer realizes the patient is in good hands, and goes back to assessing the accident scene.


The AED has signaled the need to administer a shock. The paramedic tells me "Clear." I make sure to move back. He presses the button and the patient's body jumps up a few inches from the shock of the AED. At about this time, the LAFD shows up. They come up with a gurney and their medical equipment, quickly assess the patient, and move to transport him. They whisk him away in minutes.


I then get up to go about my day. I speak to the Highway Patrol Officer and relay what I witnessed, and what I did. He asks, "Are you a fireman?" I respond, "No, I'm a CERT volunteer."


A few days later, I call the Highway Patrol to see if the patient made it or not. After finally speaking to an officer who seems to know which accident I'm talking about, I was informed that, "The driver had a massive heart attack and did not make it."


Fast forward about 6 months and I get a phone call, a fellow CERT member calls me and says, "You'll never guess who's sitting here with me." He's right, I haven't a clue. He asks, "Do you remember that paramedic that helped take care of that truck driver who crashed a few months back?" I answer, "Yes." "Well, he's a friend of mine, we used to volunteer together." I spoke to him, and he let me know that the truck driver did make it. All the things we did, helped to save his life.


Looking back, my CERT training, especially the follow up training I received from the RBFD gave me the skills and confidence to take action in a methodical way. Assess the situation, act to minimize risks (turn off engine, get fire extinguisher), use spontaneous volunteers (asking him to watch for fire), render aid, and take control until someone more competent arrives.

In the past I had learned First Aid, CPR, but never had the training or confidence to put all the skills together in that way. CERT training and the follow up drills gave me these skills.


Doug Rodriguez

A Letter from a Recent RBCERT Alumnus


On July 4th an 18 month old baby girl, Leila, had a seizure, was blue, not breathing, limp and obviously needed CPR. Some neighbors and I put our life-saving skills to work and saved this little girl! The parents new nothing until this was all over! I was so glad I could give Leila CPR. Their family is new to the area and I went to the hospital with them and had my daughter bring me back. I kept Dad calm while on the drive. I spoke to him about the CERT program and he agreed that he needs this for his family! We're looking forward to the next CERT class is or, at least, a CPR class. This was very scary with the victim being a child. I'm so happy that I could help and use the new tools that I have learned in the past and from this class.

Go CERT Team!

Sheila Johanknecht, Academy # 46


This incident shows the "Whole Approach" toward rescue. Not only was CPR administered, but Dad was kept calm and arrangements were made to transport the victim to a hospital. - Great Work!


Another Great CPR Story from Neighboring Hermosa Beach

As reported in the Easy Reader, 8/16/12

The Hermosa Beach police and fire departments are crediting the quick actions of a relative for saving the life of a 4-year-old child found in the morning on Thursday, August 9 at the bottom of an apartment complex swimming pool.

The child's guardian and her friends were with the child in the pool of an apartment complex off Pacific Coast Highway, but they had failed to watch the child, according to a statement from the police and fire departments. The child was under water for longer than a minute and wasn't responding to initial CPR attempts, the statement said.

However, a relative of the child who lives nearby showed up and continued CPR that sustained the child until paramedics arrived, said fire department Captain Mike Garofano. The child was revived and transported to a nearby hospital. The child was kept overnight for observation and is doing well, authorities said.


Marchese Is Multitasker Extraordinaire

So says the headline in the Redondo Beach Patch about RBCERTAA's human dynamo, Sandy Marchese. Click on her photo to read the whole story and see more pictures.


Sandy In EOC