North Bellmore Rescue Squad Saves Victim Given Up for Dead
Using electronic resuscitator, volunteer firemen revive 74-year-old woman after heart attack
In AN UNPRECEDENTED first-aid operation, which made the nation’s headlines from coast to coast, the North Bellmore, L. I., N. Y., Volunteer Fire Department Rescue Squad on Christmas Eve., 1957 revived a 74-year-old woman, Mrs. Alexandria Skoch, who had literally been given up for dead. What adds to the drama is the fact that the device used by the squad members, an electronic resuscitator of unusual type, was new to the volunteer first-aiders who had never before employed it on a living victim.
The chain of events began when a daughter-in-law heard Mrs. Skoch fall on the basement stairs. Finding the victim unconscious, she called police and a doctor for help.
Details of the subsequent action are taken from the official reports of the incident submitted to FIRE ENGINEERING by the North Bellmore Fire Department.
At about the time of the accident to Mrs. Skoch, the North Bellmore Rescue Squad was on standby duty for Midnight Mass at St. Raphael’s Church, directing traffic and using its floodlights to illuminate the exterior grounds as a safety precaution. At 11:50 p.m. a Nassau County policeman hurried up to the squad and requested emergency first-aid assistance for a heart attack case.
As the rescue vehicle had cables laid out from its generator to the various flood-light positions the unit could not be moved immediately. Deputy Chief Henry Gilfin together with Fireman Christopher Duffe and John Skulnik therefore took one of the mechanical resuscitators and followed the police officer in Chief Giffin’s car.
Victim unconscious in cellar
Good time was made in reaching the location of the incident, 2443 Hudson Street, where the men found Mrs. Skoch lying in a heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs of her home.
The firemen immediately attempted resuscitation but the operation of the resuscitator indicated a stoppage of the breathing passage. The woman had vomited and it was necessary to use aspiration to clear the passages. When this was accomplished resuscitation was begun, using a standard type mechanical resuscitator.
Duffe then checked the pulse of the victim and found it to be about SO per minute. It was strong but seemed irregular to him; resuscitation was continued.
In the meantime the squad unit had arrived and responding members stretched oxygen lines and brought blankets to cover the patient.
A woman came to the side of Duffe and informed him she was a registered nurse. Duffe requested her to keep count of the patient’s pulse; her immediate check confirmed the findings of the squadman.
A little later the nurse informed Duffe the pulse was beginning to fail and she began a count-down. Finally she announced it must be below ten as she could no longer feel it. The squad members then realized the patient was not responding. This belief was confirmed when a light directed at the pupil of one eye failed to cause any reaction.
It was the opinion of those present that the woman was dying. However the nurse suggested that emergency treatment continue and a priest was summoned to give the patient the last rites of the church.
New resuscitator called
Determined to do everything possible for the victim Duffe asked Skulnik to obtain the electronic resuscitator from the squad and hook it up. This was quickly done with cable stretched from the rescue vehicle to supply 110 V A.C. and the unit was turned on full power.
Within 15 seconds the patient responded and the nurse announced the pulse was rapid and strong. Resuscitation with the electronic unit was continued and the mechanical resuscitator was switched to the inhalation phase and used in conjunction.
A doctor arrived about this time and after a quick check told the squad members to move the patient to the hospital as soon as possible. After about ten minutes more of electronic resuscitation and oxygen inhalation the device was stopped and inhalation alone continued for about 15 minutes.
The patient was then placed in the rescue vehicle and taken to Meadowbrook Hospital. The history of the case was given to the resident doctor who was assured he could obtain the electronic resuscitator immediately from the fire department if necessary.
The rescue squad then returned to its standby duty at the church. The patient remained in the hospital overnight. She was released the following day and enjoyed her Christmas dinner at home.
First use of equipment
The rescue incident was the first time the North Bellmore department had used this particular electronic resuscitator. It had been purchased late last summer following a campaign by Fred Mayer, chairman, Board of Fire Commissioners, to obtain one for the firemen. Commissioner Mayer had first seen the unit while attending the Memphis Fire Department Instructors Conference two years ago and had read about it in FIRE ENGINEERING. He discussed the possibility of purchase with the members and last summer a demonstration was held for the department and the commissioners. Following this, the five fire commissioners voted to purchase a unit.
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Chief Norman Rogers, Sr., who heads the North Bellmore department, believes the foresight of the fire commissioners in obtaining the rescue equnpment for the men deserves high praise. The department was the first on Long Island to obtain the new electronic device and within a few months it demonstrated its great value. A similar situation had occurred some years ago when the department purchased its first mechanical resuscitator; within two weeks the appliance was credited with saving a life.
Editor’s Note: Details of the actual rescue procedure employed were supplied to FIRE ENGINEERING by Deputy Chief Henry Giffin, in charge at the emergency, and Fireman Christopher K. Duffe who operated the electronic resuscitator, through the courtesy of Chief Rogers and Commissioner Mayer.