Six members of Botetourt County Emergency Services team were honored Tuesday morning with the Emergency Responder Hero award presented by the American Red Cross Roanoke Valley Chapter.
The team was recognized as part of the annual “A Celebration of Heroes,” a community awards breakfast honoring heroes from the Roanoke Valley who saved lives, performed an extraordinary act of courage or made a difference in the community. Heroes were honored in the categories of Medical, Firefighter, Law Enforcement, Emergency Responder, Good Samaritan, 9-1-1 Dispatch, Community Impact, Workplace, Military and Education.
Botetourt Emergency Services team members Jason Ferguson, David Firestone, Clay Fitzgerald, Thomas Holland, Gracie Humbert and Ian Wiles were honored for using hypothermia therapy to save Brenda Boger, who had a heart attack while driving on August 12 last year.
Around 8:15 that Thursday morning while on her way to work, Boger, who lives in Blue Ridge, found herself losing consciousness at the traffic light at Roanoke Road (US 220) and Commons Parkway (Botetourt Commons) in Daleville, and slipped into cardiac arrest.
Botetourt County Emergency Services Logistic Technician and firefighter/EMT Clay Fitzgerald was sitting at the same intersection. To his surprise, he saw a woman in a green SUV drift through the intersection into oncoming traffic. “I could tell something was wrong. It looked like she was unconscious and being held in place by her seatbelt,” Fitzgerald recalled in an article that ran in The Herald in September.
Fitzgerald notified Botetourt County 911 dispatch so that units could be sent to help.
Career personnel Gracie Humbert and Ian Wiles were also in the area. Both sprang into action, noting the gravity in Fitzgerald’s voice as he called for help.
“We could tell something was wrong, because that’s not how Clay normally talks on the radio,” Humbert said. Within seconds, both Wiles and Humbert were in the ambulance and on the scene. Boger, who suffered a massive heart attack, was in cardiac arrest.
While crews began working to restart her heart, Emergency Services Division Chief David Firestone and Capt. Jason Ferguson also responded to the scene.
After the Emergency Services team got Boger’s heart beating again, the team started what is still a new therapy known as the hypothermic therapy protocol.
Basically, the crew began to cool Brenda’s body using ice packs to help slow her body down. This helps slow down the body’s inflammatory response once the stopped heart begins to beat again.
While on the way to the hospital, the EMS crew noticed that the heart rhythm that Brenda was in indicated that she was having a heart attack from a blocked blood vessel around her heart.
The crew notified Carilion Clinic of this and initiated the “Field Heart Alert” process to help get Brenda the treatment she needed in a more expedient fashion. “We’ve been using this protocol for about three years now,” explained Ferguson at the time. Heart attack victims who meet specific criteria bypass the emergency room, and go straight to the catheterization lab for immediate therapy.
At the hospital, Carilion personnel continued the hypothermic therapy and recovery process. Boger was one of the first patients to undergo the therapy, and four days from being clinically dead, she was sitting up in a chair enjoying her opportunity to again celebrate life.
She was also the first patient that Botetourt County Emergency Services had the opportunity to treat with the innovative cooling mechanism.
The American Red Cross Roanoke Valley Chapter and WSLS 10 On Your Side hosted A Celebration of Heroes at the Sheraton Roanoke Hotel.
This is the seventh annual celebration. The Red Cross and WSLS 10 requested nominations from the counties of Roanoke, Botetourt, Franklin and Craig; and the cities and towns therein. The heroic acts occurred between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010.
The proceeds from this event benefit the disaster relief work of the Red Cross in the Roanoke Valley.