Son recognized for role in saving his father's life

On June 6, Richard Swartzentruber of Greenwood collapsed in his Greenwood home with sudden cardiac arrest. Five and a half weeks later, he was the guest of honor at a celebration of the forces that came together to save his life. "I am grateful to God, and so thankful that he is giving me a few more years of life," Swartzentruber, 41, told the crowd standing in the warm sun outside the Greenwood Fire Hall. "I'm really glad to be here." "We answer 600 ambulance calls a year," said Greenwood Volunteer Fire Company president Bobby Collins. "Some of them don't have as happy an ending as this one. We are very happy that we had a small part in this happy story." Collins recognized Swartzentruber's 16-year-old son, Joshua, who administered CPR to his father until paramedics arrived. County emergency services dispatcher Todd McCabe, 41, of Dagsboro gave CPR instructions over the phone to Swartzentruber's wife, Chris, who relayed them to Joshua. "How wonderful that the dispatcher was able to tell Joshua how to give life-saving measures to save his father's life," Collins said. Glenn Luedtke, director of Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, said that early treatment in sudden cardiac arrest is crucial. A victim's chances of survival are reduced by seven to 10 percent with each minute that goes by without treatment. Brain damage starts to occur in just four minutes. "All of the elements came into play in this case for a successful outcome," he said. And that doesn't mean just survival, he added, but "walking, talking, everything-he-could-do-before-he-can-do-now kind of survival." Richard Short, assistant chief dispatcher at the county Emergency Operations Center and a volunteer with the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Company, said that the Swartzentruber 911 call came into the center at 11:55 p.m. Sunday, June 6. McCabe, who just started working at the center as a dispatcher in December, took the call. "He was told that a 41-year-old male had collapsed, and it looked like he wasn't breathing," Short said. "My training immediately kicked in," McCabe said. All dispatchers have protocols that they follow, said Debbie Jones, who is in charge of quality assurance at the Emergency Operations Center. "We handle 100,000 911 calls a year, and we try to handle every single call the same way," added Joe Thomas, director of the Emergency Operations Center. "Todd is a pretty new employee, but he did a very professional job." Within two minutes after he received the call, McCabe dispatched paramedics with the Greenwood Fire Company and the county to the Swartzentruber home east of Greenwood. In the nine minutes that it took emergency personnel to arrive at the house, Joshua Swartzentruber administered CPR to his father, following McCabe's instructions. "Because the family did what we told them to do, we had a successful outcome," Short said.

Paramedics on the scene used a defibrillator to get Swartzentruber's heart going again. They also injected his veins with 40-degree saline solution and used ice packs to lower his body temperature 4 degrees, in order to slow brain damage. This "induced hypothermia" helps to ensure a "better neurological outcome," said Luedtke. Swartzentruber was taken to the emergency department at Milford Memorial Hospital, where he was stabilized, then was transferred to Kent General Hospital in Dover. He came home five days later, on Thursday, June 11. "I have no memory of any of my treatment," Swartzentruber said. "I was speaking and hearing the whole time, but I don't remember anything until I got home Thursday evening." Swartzentruber, who operates an organic dairy farm, said that he feels pretty good. "I get tired after three or four hours of working, but they tell me that that's normal," he said. Sussex County administrator Dave Baker said that Swartzentruber's story points to the value of a well-trained and -equipped emergency medical service. "We have high-quality services in Sussex County, with dispatchers, paramedics and volunteers who work together as a team," he said. "It doesn't get any better than this," Luedtke said. "People wonder why people volunteer with emergency services, or why paramedics do what they do when they could go to medical school or be a physician's assistant. Folks, this is why we do what we do. Survivors like this are what we are after."

Device helps saves lives During the celebration of emergency medical services that saved the life of Greenwood farmer Richard Swartzentruber, Glenn Luedtke, director of Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, showed off one of the automatic CPR devices that the county just added to their trucks last week. The device ensures that pushes on the chest to get the heart going again are regular and of sufficient strength. "The better your CPR is, the more likely you are to get a good result," Luedtke said. "Any interruption in CPR is a bad thing." Luedtke said that even the most practiced emergency medical services provider can get tired after two minutes of performing CPR. "This device does all of the pushing for you," he said. It also means that CPR can continue while paramedics are carrying a patient to the ambulance. The county purchased 11 of the devices, 10 for paramedics' trucks and one for training. Purchase cost was $165,712, 60 percent of which was paid by the county and 40 percent by the state. The automatic CPR devices join the coolers of chilled saline solution that were added to the paramedics' trucks in early June. Paramedics can inject the saline to cool a patient's body 4 degrees, slow metabolism and delay brain damage. Swartzentruber's heart attack came before the automatic CPR devices were added to the paramedic's equipment. He was the first patient to be put into "induced hypothermia" by Sussex County paramedics.

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