Syracuse, N.Y. — When a man suffered a medical emergency before Syracuse’s basketball game on Tuesday night, he was sitting just a few rows behind a registered nurse from Crouse Hospital, who happened to buy tickets to the game.
He was just one section from Syracuse firefighter Darryl Trapps, who jumped into action to perform chest compressions and CPR. He was only a few minutes away from Carrier Dome medical personnel and an automated external defibrillator, which shocked his heart back to life.
Before help arrived, he didn’t have a pulse. By the time it had been administered, he was responsive and capable of answering questions as he was carted out of the Carrier Dome.
He’s currently recovering from successful surgery at Upstate University Hospital.
“I’ve never seen that before, never seen that before,” said Syracuse Fire Department Captain Charles Sanborn, who joined Trapps in helping. “It happens like that on TV, where someone hits them with a defibrillator and all of a sudden they’re talking. Never, ever, have I seen that in the field. Early CPR, early defibrillation. Time matters.”
Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard is not including the man’s name at his family’s request. They released a statement through Upstate University Hospital.
“On behalf of our family, we would like to thank everyone who has played a role in the care our husband/father/grandfather has received, including all of the first responders, Carrier Dome staff, players, coaches, fans, and the medical team at Upstate University Hospital,” the statement said. “We appreciate the prayers and outpouring of love and support this great city has shown us. Please continue to lift him up in prayers, as surgery was successful and he begins his recovery. With gratitude, from our entire family to yours.”
Candace Nestor, who lives in Cazenovia, has been a registered nurse working at Crouse Hospital since 1989. She normally works with premature infants. She’s a lifelong Syracuse fan, who raised an SU-supporting daughter, who just so happened to want to see the Orange take on Northeastern on Tuesday night. They bought tickets on StubHub in Section 123, a few rows ahead of where the man was also seated.
Witnesses described the man as suddenly going stiff in his seat, dropping his beer to the ground. The fans seated around him scrambled on the metal bleachers, attempting to lower him to the ground carefully.
Nestor said she turned around expecting to see a fight or altercation. Instead she recognized a medical emergency.
She rushed from her seat, aware that she might be the closest medical professional. Others joined her. By the time she arrived, Nestor said that the man didn’t have a pulse. She began chest compressions, doing the job of his heart with her hands.
“I knew he needed CPR,” Nestor said. “In a space that big, you’re always afraid how long it will take for help to arrive. The firefighters were there within a couple of seconds. My part was very small.”
She was there for only a few moments before Trapps, a member of the Syracuse Fire Department arrived and took over.
Trapps was one of five Syracuse firefighters on duty, along with four Syracuse University fire officials. Together, they spread out and try to cover as much of the Dome as possible, monitoring for potential emergencies.
Trapps happened to be stationed on the floor in front of Section 122, just one section over. He’s been working at Syracuse games since 2004, but had never needed to perform life-saving actions at an SU event. The most serious issues have involved falls, including a fan leaping onto the Carrier Dome field and fracturing his ankle after the Clemson game last year.
Despite the fact that his presence is almost always precautionary, Trapps says he remains vigilant during games, checking to make sure fire lanes are clear, looking for spills and hazards and monitoring the reactions of Carrier Dome security. He never knows the score.
“I saw one of the SU security (guards) or aisle monitors, running,” Trapps said. “When that happens it might be a patron going in an area they shouldn’t be or it could be an emergency. Then they started waving for me to come.”
The medical professionals in the man’s section that had arrived moments before were able to tell Trapps the man didn’t have a pulse. He checked for himself, knew to treat the situation as a cardiac event and began his own set of chest compressions.
For about 15 minutes, the attention of the Carrier Dome crowd centered on the medical efforts as the opening tip was delayed. Players, who had begun to make their way out for the opening tip, took an occasional warm-up shot but spent most of their time peering into the stands. The announced crowd of 20,416 craned their necks to peer into Section 123.
Trapps said his training took over. He blocked out the fact that he was surrounded by observers, a public test of his emergency response skills. Nestor said she didn’t even realize the players were waiting to start the game until after they stopped treatment.
“I’m able to tune people out to a certain degree,” Trapps said. “That’s how we work. I’m on the rescue company. We’re usually in the middle of downtown Salina Street or the public eye. You don’t get wrapped up in people watching. It’s just the task and making sure we do it correctly.”
Trapps said he continued chest compressions, while a man who identified himself as a doctor and was sitting nearby performed rescue breathing. For every 30 times that Trapps pushed down on the man’s chest, the doctor provided two breaths. They needed to keep oxygen circulating to his brain. Trapps knew that after just six minutes without oxygen the brain begins to die.
Within minutes of Trapps’ arrival, members of SU Ambulance and Syracuse’s Dome Medical team arrived with a defibrillator. They attached sticky pads to his sternum, working around Trapps and the doctor, as they continued to perform CPR.
The first shock generated no response. Trapps performed more chest compressions. The doctor performed more rescue breathing. The machine ordered a second shock.
Again there was no response. More chest compressions. Another round of breathing.
After the third shock, Trapps said that the man came back to life.
“The patient started to come around,” Trapps said. “He had some reflexes. He took a breath in.”
Trapps said Dome Medical and SU Ambulance attached a heart monitor and an IV. By the time the man was wheeled out on a stretcher he was responsive, answering questions and able to interact with medical personal as he was taken from the Carrier Dome to Upstate University Hospital.
The firefighters said the questions they asked are protected by privacy laws, but witnesses said he was able to provide his age and other details. The Carrier Dome crowd applauded quietly. The game began. The crowd struggled to muster much emotion for the first few minutes.
Nestor returned her seat to watch the game. Trapps went back to his job, scanning for the next problem. A couple days later, neither had heard if their actions made any difference. They were relieved to hear that it had.
“You feel good about it, especially when the outcome is positive,” Trapps said. “In our line of work it isn’t always. Sometimes you hear the outcome is good. Sometimes you never find out.”
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