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Island firefighters honored with Phoenix Awards

By Staff | Dec 23, 2019

Firefighter-Paramedic Nick Miller

At the Captiva Island Fire Control District’s annual holiday party, several crew members were recognized for their actions during two separate calls that saved the lives of both patients.

On Dec. 14, the fire district’s administration, commissioners and staffers honored two crews – six employees in total – with Phoenix Awards for their life-saving actions on a call. EMS Coordinator Lt. Michael Knight explained that a phoenix is a mythological creature that stands for the rebirth of life.

“So in EMS when we respond to a patient suffering from cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest, it means their heart has stopped or will stop without immediate intervention,” he said, adding that a Phoenix Award is bestowed upon employees who resuscitate and save the life of the person in such situations.

“The patient is treated and recovers – and is able to continue their life,” Knight said.

The first group recognized consisted of Fire Chief Jeff Pawul, Lt. Paul DeArmond, Firefighter-Paramedic Nick Miller and Firefighter-EMT Aaron McKenzie. At about noon on Nov. 21, 2018, the crew responded to the South Seas Island Resort in reference to a child who was found in a pool.

Firefighter-EMT Aaron McKenzie

“The 3-year-old boy had wandered off from his parents,” he said. “A bystander found the boy unresponsive and pulseless submerged in a pool.”

The bystander immediately began CPR and 911 was called. Knight reported that the Captiva crew arrived on scene and took over the patient’s care, assuming CPR duties. When a monitor was applied to the child it revealed that he had a pulse, however the boy was not breathing on his own at the time.

“So the crew provided rescue breaths for the patient, essentially breathing for the patient,” he said.

Lee County EMS arrived on scene and, with assistance from the Captiva team, transported the child to the emergency landing zone. The helicopter arrived and transported the boy to a nearby hospital.

“The boy went on to make a nearly full recovery,” Knight said.

Firefighter-Paramedic Josh Hulslander

“Outstanding efforts to the crew members and their quick response,” he added.

Knight noted that the bystander knowing and performing CPR while waiting for emergency help greatly increased the patient’s chance for survival, which is why it is recommended everyone learn it.

The second group honored included DeArmond, Miller and McKenzie, along with Firefighter-Paramedic Josh Hulslander and volunteer Firefighter Mark Wells. On March 3, it responded to South Seas at about 5 p.m. in reference to a 72-year-old man who was complaining about chest pains.

He had been having non-traumatic pains – not accident related – for about 24 hours.

“He called 911 to have crew members assess him because it went on for so long,” Knight said.

Volunteer Firefighter Mark Wells

He added that the patient cited the district’s quality of care as a reason for calling.

“He said if he was anywhere else, he would not have done so,” Knight said.

Upon arrival, the Captiva crew performed an onsite EKG, which showed a heart attack.

“He was treated appropriately – they gave him medication, treated him with high-quality ALS care,” he said, adding that the helicopter was unavailable at the time so the patient was transported to the hospital with help from county EMS. “While en route, the patient’s heart stopped two different times.”

Each time, the man was revived.

Lt. Paul DeArmond

“The patient went on to make a full recovery,” Knight said.

“We strive for high-quality emergency medical care and this crew showed just that,” he added, extending the district’s thanks to Lee County EMS for its assistance on the call. “Great job again.”

Knight noted that the public should not hesitate to call 911.

“We’re here for a reason,” he said.

The crew members were excited and grateful for the award.

“We don’t receive a lot of recognition in this service, as far as patient feedback and outcomes of patients,” Knight said. “Knowing that we were able to make a difference is a good feeling.”