The West Hartford Fire Department honored a local business with a Life Saving Award after they saved the life of an employee in an accounting office across the hall.
By Ronni Newton
In the normal course of his workday, Dr. Joseph Howard improves people’s lives, but he doesn’t typically have to employ life-saving measures.
That changed on Feb. 2.
An oral surgeon and owner of Central Connecticut Oral Maxillofacial & Implant Surgery, Howard and several members of his team leaped to the rescue when a member of the staff of the office across the hall ran to them for help.
A male employee at GitlinCampisePrendergast, LLC, the accounting firm located directly across the hall, had collapsed, wasn’t breathing, and was turning blue, said Howard, who has had his office in the Armory Building on Farmington Avenue for about 12 years.
Someone from GitlinCampisePrendergast came across the hall, “grabbed my arm and said you need to come here,” Howard said. The man who had collapsed was immobile and did not have a pulse.
Someone from the accounting office had already called 911, and Howard, assisted by two oral surgery assistants from his practice – Amanda Sampson and Meghan Grondin – immediately began sprang into action, starting CPR and then using the automated external defibrillator (AED) from their office to deliver a shock.
“They knew we had the AED. We got the pulse back quickly,” Howard said. By the time the West Hartford Fire Department arrived – three minutes from the time of dispatch, Assistant Chief Hugh O’Callaghan said – the patient had a pulse and respirations.
West Hartford Fire Department firefighter paramedics helped transport the patient to Hartford Hospital, and a week later he was discharged and is expected to make a full recovery.
“The quick action of Dr. Howard and his staff to start early CPR and AED defibrillation was vital to the patient’s survival,” said Community Service Officer Andrew Eccles. “What helps with the outcome is the fast response.”
Howard said the national association to which his oral surgery practice belongs requires that all employees maintain CPR certification.
“We’re prepared to do it,” he said, but there aren’t a lot of emergencies in the day-to-day practice. He said he had not personally had to respond to someone who was coding since his days as a resident.
“With the town recently obtaining a Heart Safe Community and strong efforts by the West Hartford Fire Department in educating the citizens of West Hartford in Hands Only CPR, that will hopefully make a story like this a common occurrence,” Eccles said.
“You take away any of the links from the chain [of cardiac survival], and it just breaks,” O’Callaghan said.
Members of the West Hartford Fire Department, including those who had responded to the incident, presented Howard and the staff of Central Connecticut Oral Maxillofacial & Implant Surgery with a Life Saving Award on March 30.
“It was just fortunate they came to us,” added Howard. There are other detail offices in the building, but his is the only oral surgery practice, and he is an M.D. as well as a D.D.S. degree.
“Thank goodness you weren’t with a patient,” said Capt. Neal Sinatro, who along with Apparatus Operator Sean Howard and Firefighter/Paramedic Xavier Harrelle was on the responding team from the West Hartford Fire Department that day.
Howard said the office staff is trained so that even if they had been actively working on a patient, that individual could have been safely monitored during the short time he was away.
After saving a life on Feb. 2, it was business as usual for Howard and his team the rest of the day, although the adrenaline was certainly flowing.
Following this incident, GitlinCampisePrendergast has now purchased their own AED and will have their staff trained in CPR, Eccles said.
Apparatus Operator Bill Schappert said as part of West Hartford’s designation as a HEARTSafe Community, they will continue working with more businesses to get involved in sharing that they have an AED available, and getting employees trained in CPR.
“Maybe you can be the start of something in this building,” Eccles told Dr. Howard.
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