Sergeant survives heart attack

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Brabenec
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Dotson can tell you good timing counts to a person suffering a heart attack; he knows because he had one.

In early November, Dotson, 39, recalls joining his unit for early morning physical training at the base fitness center here.

"I just finished warming up and had completed about 25 of 30 pushups when I felt a tightness in my chest," said Dotson, an electrician with the 9th Civil Engineer Squadron. "I began to wonder what was going on."

Into his third sit up, he found himself gasping for breath and sweating profusely.

"By that time, I wasn't feeling good at all. So, I asked a buddy to take me to the clinic. I told him I thought I was having a heart attack," he said.

Upon arriving at the clinic, Dotson's friend ran inside to alert the 9th Medical Group emergency medical technicians of his friend's heart attack.

Staff Sgt. Heidi Carr was the first EMT to see Dotson, who by then was walking toward the clinic.

"I noticed he was very pale and in a lot of pain," said Carr. "There was no time to think, we just relied on our training, loaded him into an ambulance and drove him straight to the emergency room downtown."

Craig Shankland, a civilian paramedic who provided emergency medical care on the way to Fremont Rideout Medical Center in Marysville, said Dotson's quick response greatly improved his chances for survival.

"Too many people die from denial that they are having a heart attack," said Shankland. "Jeff contributed to his care, because he listened to what his body told him and immediately sought out emergency medical treatment."

Shankland began oxygen and drug treatments, specifically morphine and nitroglycerine, as soon as Dotson was secured in the ambulance. Both drugs dilate the arteries and allow increased blood; morphine also relaxes the patient, something Dotson definitely needed.

"Dotson's pain began (at) around (an) 11 on a scale of one to 10. Even after the drug therapies, his pain only reduced to around (an) eight or nine," said Shankland. "Despite the continued pain, the dilation drugs we dispensed had a direct effect on later efforts to save his heart."

What Shankland did not know was Dotson's heart attack involved a 100-percent blockage in one of the two arteries sending blood to the heart. Robbed of vital oxygen, time would damage Dotson's heart unless he quickly received advanced life support.

Shankland directed Carr to drive Code 3 to Rideout. Code 3 includes all sirens, lights and increased speeds.

"Normally we keep the ride quiet and smooth to help calm the patient. This time was simply a matter of life and death; we had to get him to the emergency room as fast as possible," said Shankland.

Rideout medical professionals rushed Dotson into the cardiac catheter ward where they inserted a catheter to photograph his heart. With these images, doctors located the blockage and rushed him to surgery to perform an angioplasty. Once completed, Dotson's artery opened up, and the healing process began.

Close proximity to quality medical care definitely aided Dotson in his time of need, but this would not have been possible a couple months ago.

He spent much of the summer sweltering in the 130-degree heat of Saudi Arabia. Working six days a week and at least 12 hours a day, he kept plenty busy supporting the Air Force mission there.

During his limited free time, Dotson took care of himself, both through exercise and diet.

"In terms of physical conditioning, I believed I could hang with most of the people there," he said. "Diet-wise, I saw many people head straight for tatter tots, pizza and burritos every day while I ate in the healthy line, but it still happened to me."

Dotson's survival again highlights the value of Beale's rapid medical response team.

"With EMTs and paramedics here, we saved a great deal of time and provided critical care on the way to the hospital," said Carr. "In this case, that probably made the difference in saving Sergeant Dotson's life."