MILFORD, Mass. – Pain grips your chest, you stumble and begin to fall, desperate you try to call for help but all you can do is gasp for air. You know you need help but you are powerless to do anything-- lucky for you there’s an Army medic standing so close that he catches you before you can hit the floor.
While waiting for a train after having dinner with his cousin, Feb. 27, 2009, Army Spc. Alex Santos, from the 182nd Medical Company, Massachusetts Army National Guard, noticed that a man was having a heart attack and began providing immediate care during the first critical moments of cardiac arrest on the railway platform at North Station in Boston.
Santos said, “I was waiting for a train after having dinner with my cousin when suddenly, I heard a gasp coming from behind me, I turned to look and saw an older man having a seizure. The man began turning blue and I assisted him to the ground.”
Two nurses, Candace Kruszinski and Patty Rogers, who were also waiting for a train, came to the patient’s aid and they all worked together to help him. Santos began giving the man chest compressions while one of the nurses used an automated external defibrillator to re-establish a normal heart rhythm while the patient was still in cardiac arrest.
Someone contacted emergency medical service technicians while the impromptu team performed CPR and used the AED.
“His airway was obstructed by his tongue so I asked my cousin to get a spoon from McDonald's and Nurse Candace Kruszinki used it to shift his tongue out of the way so she could provide breaths,” said Santos. “It was great to see that you can work with anyone as long as the protocols are the same. It was smooth work all around.”
Minutes later, EMS arrived at the train station and transported the patient to the hospital where he received definitive care.
“I found out later that he was listed as being in a stable condition. It was great to hear that the gentleman was stable. It's good to give him a chance to head home,” said Santos.
Santos joined the Massachusetts Army National Guard to find a sense of direction and because he wanted to work in the medical field to help people.
“For most Soldiers, medics are it for medical care during their most critical moments. I wanted to help and see results immediately,” said Santos.
Santos works full time as an emergency room technician at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is fulfilling the prerequisites for physician’s assistant school.
Medical emergencies can cause anxiety for most people because the stakes are high; fortunately, medical professionals focus on the task at hand and bring order to chaos.
“I wasn’t nervous when I realized what was happening. I acted on pure instinct and let the training kick in. I deal with similar situations at work on occasion,” said Santos.
Like many other first responders Santos is modest about his role in saving the man’s life, but to a helpless person who is struggling to hold on to their life, a first responder is a hero.
Spc. Santos’s commanding officer has recommended the 26-year-old Lynn resident for the Massachusetts Humanitarian Medal.