So there we were, minding our own business…

The tale of how EMS1 columnist Kelly Grayson helped make a save while returning home from EMS Today

The headline is how most EMS war stories begin, isn't it?

Sunday morning, on the way back to Massachusetts from EMS Today in Baltimore, my buddy Too Old to Work, Too Young to Retire and I stopped at a diner in Edison, N.J., for breakfast. Halfway through our eggs and bacon, we heard a waitress shout, "Somebody call 911!"

Several diner staff were clustered around a booth 10 feet away, where an elderly woman slumped over in her seat, eyes open and unfocused, with gasping respirations at about 12 per minute.

TOTWTYR and I got her out of the booth to manage her airway, and finding no carotid or radial pulses, immediately started chest compressions. Since neither of us had a pocket mask or barrier device, we elected to do uninterrupted compressions, relieving each other every two minutes.

One well-meaning bystander — not understanding why we weren't doing 30:2 — tried to stop us, but we politely informed her that not only were we both off-duty paramedics, but that we were also BLS instructors.

Halfway through the second cycle of compressions, a local cop arrived with an AED and a BLS bag. The poor officer, whose hands were shaking so badly he couldn't apply the AED ads, readily surrendered the device to TOTWTYTR. After one shock, a compressor switch, another two minutes of compressions (at 30:2 with BVM ventilation and oxygen this time), we delivered the second shock just as the local BLS squad arrived.

After assuring that compressions were continued with minimal interruption, we returned to our seats. The BLS squad delivered another shock, and by the time the ALS transport unit arrived, our patient had regained a pulse and effective respirations.

Of the successful resuscitations I've worked over the years, the common factor was that most of the links of the AHA Chain of Survival were in place. In this case, every link was in place; early access to 911, bystander CPR from the moment of arrest, defibrillation within 4 minutes, and ALS care within 8 minutes.

And as a result, one lucky lady has a fighting shot at survival that she may not have had otherwise. Plus, the diner comped our breakfast!

Now, how cool is that?

About the author

Kelly Grayson, NRP, CCEMT-P, is a critical care paramedic in Louisiana. He has spent the past 24 years as a field paramedic, critical care transport paramedic, field supervisor and educator. He is president of the Louisiana Society of EMS Educators and a board member of the LA Association of Nationally Registered EMTs.

He is a frequent EMS conference speaker and contributor to various EMS training texts, and is the author of the popular blog A Day In the Life of an Ambulance Driver. Kelly's books are available on his author page at You can follow him on Twitter (@AmboDriver) or Facebook, or email him at Kelly is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board.

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