Cumberland Times-News

December 23, 2013

Paramedics honored for life-saving effort

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— WESTERNPORT — Thanks to the knowledge and skill of paramedics and ambulance crews, Vicki and Eric Alexander will have the chance to celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary in February.

“I saw a miracle,” said Eric later.

On Sept. 19, the Alexanders were refilling their bird feeders and bird baths when yellow jackets nesting under one of the bird baths attacked Vicki, who is allergic to insect stings. She was stung five times. She’d been stung before, and used prepared prescription shots to avoid going into shock. On that Thursday evening, the shots weren’t working, and Vicki knew it. Eric knew the drill, just in case, always call 911. Eric also called their daughter, Erica, a recently graduated registered nurse.

“This isn’t good. I’m not going to make it,” Vicki said in the moments before going into shock. Eric’s knowledge of how to help was running out.

“It went quickly from ‘I know what to do’ to ‘there was nothing I could do,’” Eric said. Vicki struggled to breathe as the seconds passed.

“Helpless, I knew I was watching my wife die. Vickie was now semiconscious and barely breathing. I called 911 a second time to advise that Vicki’s condition was now grave. Erica arrived to help. She did a quick assessment and told me, ‘Dad, Mom’s dying.’ I gave Vicki the last Epipen we had … Erica and I could not get a pulse … or see any movement in her chest. Seconds later the medic unit arrived and they began working on Vicki. At that point, to Erica and me, Vicki was gone,” Eric said at a county ceremony last week.

An Epipen is a prescribed, injectable dose of epinephrine used to counteract allergic reactions.

Eric heard the sound of a drill as paramedics got to work but had no idea what it was until later. Paramedics drilled into Vicki’s shin and directly inserted drugs into her bone marrow to reverse the shock. In moments she took a half breath, and then a deep breath, Eric said.

Vicki Marie Alexander was flown by Trooper 5, Maryland State Police Aviation, to the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center emergency department for additional medical care. After approximately 24 hours in the hospital, she was able to go home, according to county officials. As she was put in the ambulance, she called for her husband to tell Eric she loved him. He couldn’t believe that just moments before, she wasn’t breathing.

“In just 25 hours she was back home with her grandchildren and her dogs,” Eric said.

Allegany County Commissioners honored three individuals for their role in the rescue, and all the fire and ambulance crews who responded to what became a life-saving call, in a ceremony Dec. 18 at the Allegany County Office Complex on Kelly Road. The Encore for a Hero ceremony honored paramedics Joshua Clark, Christopher Green and Robert Pattison, who worked together to save Vicki.

“We have many volunteers in this room today. Some have taken the skills acquired as volunteers and turned those into careers. My family and I want to thank you for your service to your community, and congratulate you on your career decision,” Eric said. “The outcome for my wife, Vicki, was only seconds away from having a much different ending. … This crew did what I believe was the impossible — stopping and reversing anaphylaxis shock. … Your unselfish service to the public is appreciated and more valuable than you can imagine. My family will never forget what you did that day. You will always be our heroes,” Eric said.

The ceremony is an occasional recognition for county volunteers and staff members, especially in the police, fire and rescue services. Also honored were responders including the Allegany County 911 Joint Communications Center, Tri-Towns Ambulance & Rescue Service, Inc., Potomac Fire Company #2 and Maryland State Police Aviation Trooper 5.

“I think this particular Encore for a Hero exemplifies the dedication to service of our volunteer fire and rescue companies,” said Dick DeVore, the county’s emergency services director. “In this particular case it resulted in a life saved. It couldn’t be a more powerful example,” DeVore said.

“Praise the Lord,” said Eric Alexander, who thanked his good neighbors and all the crews who came to the aid of his wife. He said while the matter was in God’s hands that God chose to do his miracle through the paramedics.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.