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Staff At Crater Lake National Park Beats The Odds And Saves A Life


Crater Lake. Photo by StuSeeger via Creative Commons and flickr.

The odds of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest are dismally low, especially if the crisis occurs in a remote location. A visitor to Crater Lake National Park last month beat those odds, thanks to a combination of good staff training and modern medical care. It was a situation where every link in the "chain of response and treatment" worked to perfection.

On the afternoon of July 16th, park dispatch received a radio call from the park’s remote north entrance station reporting a female bicyclist who was experiencing chest pain. Visitor Use Assistant Chris Reinhardt went to the 52-year-old woman’s aid and relayed patient information to responding rangers and other park emergency services personnel.

While other emergency responders were still en route, Reinhardt advised that the woman had become unresponsive and that he was beginning CPR. EMS personnel, including park medic Jason Ramsdell, arrived to find the woman in cardiac arrest. They immediately employed an automated external defibrillator (AED) to administer three shocks to the victim's heart. The shocks, combined with Advanced Life Support medications, restored her pulse. She was then flown by Mercy Air to a hospital in Medford.

We occasionally read news reports of similar incidents, but rarely know much about the outcome. In this case, the cardiologist who treated the woman called the park several weeks after the emergency to report that the incident had had a positive outcome; he pointed out that "every link in the chain of response and treatment resulted in saving her life." Those steps included:

• Prompt recognition of the problem.
• Effective CPR with fast, deep chest compressions.
• Prompt use of an AED.
• Early ordering of the life flight, as the woman likely would not have survived a ground transport.
• Getting the patient on a cardiac and breathing machine as soon as she arrived at the hospital in Medford.
• Implanting a new stent and placing the patient on a hypothermia machine.

According to a park spokesperson, "the cardiologist said that survival rates for CPR/AED events are less than 10%. The woman’s previously implanted stent had become completely clogged. She arrested 12 times after arriving at the hospital and was shocked back each time. But she was off the cardiac machine within three days, was off breathing tubes and other interventions within seven days, and was discharged from the hospital 12 days following the incident."

"While the full extent of damage to her heart may not be known for a few more weeks, her survival is the result of every person in the chain of care working together, providing excellent treatment and making wise decisions."

The doctor plans to submit the story of the incident to the American Heart Association due to the remote nature of the incident and the positive outcome.

Kudos to the park staff and others in the EMS system for a "save." The incident also offers a reminder to all of us about the benefits of learning CPR and how to use an AED, as well as the value of funding for AED equipment in locations such as NPS areas.


AEDs saves lifes! This is a remarkable story! Kudos to the park staff indeed!

I know another guy who once saved a life with quick thinking. His name is Kurt Repenshak and the life was mine: August 20, 1980. We were whitewater rafting in West Virginia.

Thanks for pulling me out Kurt.


I second the kudos to the park staff. So glad to hear happy endings to some of these park episodes.

Unfortunatley many like accidents in the parks have less happy endings. True the NPS has made great strides in EMS response but in some parks Law Enforcement rangers with proper equipment/training are many miles away. And due to budget cuts their are less of them. The other calsses of rangers are not properley trained in most parks leaving a large gap in the amount of time it takes for effective ALS treatment to begin.

Defibrillation and CPR go a long way when it comes to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest attack. Being it is the leading cause of death in the US, AEDs are needed everywhere to avoid fatalities or, at the least, lessen the liklihood of such. Stories like this are amazing to hear but are, unfortunately, not with every case. The more AEDs in public and private facilities, the more stories like this will come about. That is what we at strive to do - Get as many AEDs as possible in as many locations as possible by providing grant funding to aid those purchasing. Application is free of charge and obligation. With that said, we have found to have onsite CPR, First Aid, and AED training courses at a fraction of the cost of it's competitors. Together, with AEDs and CPR trained personnel, we can increase the survival rate of Sudden Cardiac Arrest victims.

This is very good for sure! I'd like to mention that there have been several situations at the Canyon where Mule Guides have responded to Cardiac events and have been successful in giving new life to fading ones. On a daily basis the guides and Packers go by every hiker on the trail many times evaluating and coming to the aid in any number of ways, hikers that would proceed into serious trouble if not for them interceding. Not often said but I felt it needs to be. Political correctness doesn't often cover the reality of life in the backcountry.

AEDs save lifes. But people should know how to use them. There is an instruction and they really are fool proof, but it helps tremendously to get a training course if you wish to feel comfortable with the possibility of having to use one some day. So everyone out there, ask you local hospital, the Red Cross or whoever comes to your mind, if there are AED courses in your area. Usually they are free or come at a nominal fee. I feel better when ever I notice an AED somwhere, now that I've seen one up close, open and ready, and learned how to attach the pads.

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