EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 24, 2008

Police officers lauded as heroes for saving man's life

By Margo Sullivan , Staff writer

PELHAM - When they responded to a 911 emergency call Tuesday night on Tallant Road, Patrolman Matthew Keenliside and Sgt. Michael Pickles had no idea what they would find.

The screen door was open when they arrived, and the police officers pushed their way inside. In the living room, they found a woman kneeling on the floor trying to resuscitate her 59-year-old husband.

"She was frantic," Pickles said.

The woman told police that her husband had seemed fine, and then he suddenly "just dropped." She called police at 7:45 p.m. When the officers arrived, he wasn't breathing and was unresponsive.

"He was on his back in the living room," Keenliside said. "She was on the ground with him doing CPR."

Pickles found the telephone line still open with the 911 operator. He wasn't sure if the operator had been walking her through first-aid instructions.

"It seemed like that," he said. "She said she wasn't sure if she was doing it right."

The officers knew what they had to do, and they had come prepared.

Pickles and Keenliside were carrying a portable device - called a ZOLL automated external defibrillator, which has been installed in Pelham police cruisers since last month. The device assesses the patient's condition and recommends a course of action to restore a person's heartbeat or regulate the heart rhythm.

The officers followed the directions to deliver two shocks to the man's chest and successfully resuscitated him.

Rescue workers from the Pelham Fire Department then took over and transported the patient to Saints Medical Center in Lowell, Mass. The man's name is not being released because of patient confidentiality laws. Police Lt. Gary Fisher said the man remains in the hospital's intensive care unit.

Keenliside and Pickles are being credited with saving the man's life, but the officers are sharing the credit with the Fire Department.

"Those guys are the reason he's still alive," said Keenliside, who before Tuesday night had seen the Fire Department use the defibrillator but never had to use it himself. Pickles said the Fire Department's efforts were heroic.

Fire Chief Michael Walker said the Fire Department's medical technicians were only in a position to provide advanced life support at the scene and get the patient to the hospital alive because the police officers had used the defibrillator.

"It's not us. It's not them. It's the team," he said. "That early defibrillation was a key component. Allowing the police officers to carry defibrillators pays off. It paid off that time."

Fisher said the timing was perfect because the Police Department replaced all of its old portable defibrillators last month. All of the officers have been trained in their use, as well as in basic first aid and in CPR, he said.

He said the total cost was $6,575 for five portables, with pads for infants and children and adults.

"As far as I'm concerned, they've already proven they're worth every penny," Fisher said.