Instructors at the Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting and Safety School unexpectedly put their skills to the test when an upgrader recently suffered a medical emergency.
AB Steven Hicks was in the process of returning his fire fighting gear to the bunkhouse on Aug. 6 when he began experiencing shortness of breath.
Fire school instructor John Thomas said, “We had just finished with the first morning of Basic Training Revalidation, which consisted of students extinguishing a bunkhouse fire, and then proceeding to perform a search and rescue. Everyone had just passed their practicals (tests), and Mr. Hicks came into the back and turned in his equipment. And then it looked like he was putting on his shoes, but we quickly noticed he wasn’t looking right, and then he started clutching his chest. He then passed out, and I began to apply chest compressions. I told the other instructors to go get an AED, while I continued attempting to revive him. I stopped doing chest compressions long enough to apply an AED shock, and after that I attempted to install an airway adjunct. A second AED shock was administered, after which we were able to get a pulse. Mr. Hicks then suffered a minor seizure, during which we protected his head and kept his airway open until the ambulance arrived.”
Once on the scene, the paramedics determined that Hicks should be flown via helicopter to an appropriate facility that could treat an ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction, the most severe type of heart attack.
Thomas concluded, “All the instructors that helped out during the save, we all worked together as a team. It was a big team effort, and Mr. Hicks would not have had as positive an outcome without their assistance. He was in the best place possible to have that kind of medical emergency, surrounded by well-trained individuals.”
Hicks stated, “I finished up with the fire fighting part of the test, and I was turning in my boots. I was having a hard time catching my breath, felt a little dizzy, and the next thing I knew I was in the ambulance. I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not.”
He continued, “I had a blockage, but the rest of my heart is good. It just wasn’t my time to go…. My heart specialist said the only place better to have a heart attack would have been in the hospital itself. If it wasn’t for the staff at the fire school, I wouldn’t be here today. Grateful to be here, to see my grandkids grow up.”
At the September membership meeting at Piney Point, the staff at the fire school were presented with certificates of appreciation for their efforts. The following staff members were honored: John Thomas, Matt Rogers, Robbie Springer, John Tennyson, Gary Joy, Kevin Molitor, Kyle Adams and Brian Ticson.
A true mariner, Hicks has a clear goal during his recovery: “I’m going through the paces now with the cardiac rehabilitation, and the rest of my heart is clean. One blockage, 99.9% blocked. But once I get cleared, I’m back out to sea and back to work.”