POCATELLO — A police officer and emergency dispatcher are being credited with saving the life of a man who nearly died early Saturday morning from a massive heart attack.
Patrolman Tyler Anderson and dispatcher Diana Rich, both members of the Pocatello Police Department, are being called heroes for their actions.
The situation began to unfold when Rich answered a 911 phone call to the Police Department around 2:20 a.m. Saturday. A woman was on the other end of the phone reporting that she had just found her 65-year-old husband unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse in a chair in the couple’s living room.
“I told her to start CPR,” said Rich, who’s been with the Police Department for the past seven years. “I told her to do whatever she could to pull him off the chair and lay him flat on his back. Then I walked her through the CPR instructions that we have.”
Rich is trained to relay CPR instructions to people in such emergency situations. But the dispatcher soon realized that the woman was struggling to perform the CPR and help was needed soon or the man would die.
Rich had dispatched a Pocatello Fire Department ambulance to the couple’s home on Jensen Street off of Hawthorne Road immediately after receiving the 911 call. But she knew that it could take the ambulance several minutes to arrive on the scene.
Rich quickly reviewed the location of all Pocatello Police Department units at the time and saw that Anderson was on patrol in his police car just a few blocks away from the couple’s home.
Rich also knew that Anderson’s patrol unit was equipped with one of the Police Department’s new automated external defibrillators, portable devices that can deliver the necessary electrical shock to restart someone’s heart.
The Police Department has 12 of the devices, also known as AEDs, and has placed them all in patrol vehicles. Eventually, the Police Department hopes to have enough AEDs to put them in every one of its patrol units.
Anderson, who’s been with the Police Department for nearly three years, got the information about the incident on Jensen Street from Rich and quickly responded to the couple’s home.
The man’s wife unlocked the front door and let the officer armed with the defibrillator into the house.
“He was on the ground on the floor, not moving, unconscious, not breathing, no pulse,” Anderson said about the heart attack victim.
Anderson put the AED’s pads on the man’s chest and began shocking the man’s heart. Anderson received CPR and AED training a few months ago but this is the first time he’s had to put that training to the test in a real life emergency situation.
A few minutes later the Pocatello Fire Department ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over, administering CPR and using their own defibrillator on the man.
The man was then rushed via ambulance to Portneuf Medical Center, where he was stabilized. The man, whose name has not yet been released, is expected to make a full recovery, police said.
The Fire Department sent the Police Department an email following the incident stating that if not for the efforts of Rich and Anderson, the man would not have survived.
The man was suffering from what the Fire Department refers to as an “echo arrest.” That’s code for the most severe heart attack a person can experience. The man was dying and needed immediate help.
Fortunately, his wife’s 911 call was answered by an experienced dispatcher who knew that waiting for the ambulance to arrive was not an option in this case.
“My thought process was that an officer in his car would get there faster,” Rich said.
The Pocatello Police Department had only had its AEDs for two days prior to Saturday morning’s incident.
“It’s pretty awesome that we have the tools,” Anderson said about the AEDs. “It’s great timing that we got these and great timing for (the man who suffered the heart attack) for sure.”
Anderson said Pocatello police officers respond to a lot of calls in which they’re on the scene of emergency situations before the Pocatello Fire Department arrives. So having the AEDs in Pocatello police patrol cars will definitely result in more saved lives in the future, police said.
For Rich, who says she works as a police dispatcher because “it’s an important job that helps the community,” she definitely helped one local man early Saturday morning escape what would have otherwise been a deadly heart attack.
Anderson downplayed his role in the incident, saying AEDs are “dummy proof” and “anyone could have done it just as easy as I did.”
But the patrolman concedes it is “pretty cool” that he helped save a life.
There’s one Pocatello couple who would definitely agree.