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Woman thanks RFD, others who saved her life; EMS chief says cardiac arrest patient survived despite the odds

Eastern New Mexico Center nurse Jane Smith, center, poses next to Denise Dwyer and her son, Sterling Stark, who peeks from behind. At the medical center Thursday afternoon, Dwyer met with everyone who had a hand in saving her life after suffering from cardiac arrest to say thank you. Those involved in saving Dwyer's life included the Roswell Fire Department, dispatchers at the Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center, crew members at Superior Ambulance and emergency room staff. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

A Roswell woman who was saved after suffering a cardiac arrest gave her thanks to everyone who had a part in saving her.


At the emergency room area at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center Thursday afternoon, Denise Dwyer met with those who offered her assistance at a time when she couldn’t help herself.
Dwyer said she couldn’t recall all of the details, but remembers making a call to report she had difficulty breathing.
“The dispatcher said that I couldn’t speak very well, and that I was struggling to breathe,” Dwyer said. “The last I heard, they found me on the floor with my nebulizer. I was gone at that time.”
Roswell EMS Chief Eric Mann said, while he wasn’t there, it was at about 1 p.m. Aug. 13 when they were dispatched to a troubled breathing call.
“From them leaving to getting to her house, the dispatcher came back on and said that they had lost contact with the person on the phone,” Mann said. “So, these guys got there, probably expecting to find something worse than what they were dispatched to.”
Lt. Paul Sons, a Roswell Fire Department EMT, said after arriving at the location, they weren’t completely sure if they were at the right house, but there was an open door.
“I proceeded in that door, and I could hear dispatch on the phone, so I knew we were in the right place,” Sons said. “When we walked in, we found her. She was unconscious, unresponsive.”
Sons said after beginning to move Dwyer, they realized she had a pulse.
“We witnessed her cardiac arrest,” he said. “Timing on this was perfect. For everything. From the dispatch to her realizing she needed help, to us getting there.”
Mann said they then pulled Dwyer away, and started performing CPR.
“(They were) administering ventilations and also were able to establish an IO (Intraosseous infusion) in the bone in order to get access as far as giving her drugs,” Mann said. “They actually gave the first round of drugs down the ET (endotracheal) tubes, so they intubated her on scene, gave her a round of epinephrine down the ET tube and then gave the second round through the IO, along with the drug we call B-50.
“Through those things, along with the CPR, they were able to get a pulse back.”
Sons said timing is the reason Dwyer is alive today.
“Three to four more minutes, it may not have been the same case,” Sons said.
Once Dwyer had a pulse, Sons said they moved her to the gurney, into the ambulance.
Sons said he and paramedic Kenny Barncastle rode in the ambulance to Eastern New Mexico Medical Center with Dwyer and then transferred care to ER staff.
Dwyer spent five days in the ICU.
“They kept me heavily medicated and I was intubated, so I couldn’t breathe on my own and couldn’t eat,” Dwyer said. “I was down for the count — they just kept me still. I was in ICU for five days altogether, and then four more days in the hospital after that.”
Dwyer said the healing process from her cardiac arrest continues to take time.
“I’m still recovering,” she said. “I still have a few issues and have to do rehab and occupational therapy. It’s hard to walk, it’s hard to stand still, I’ve lost a lot of memory, so there’s — I just never realized there was so much involved.
“You watch TV, and you see people just have an experience like that, and they’re up and dressed and running, jogging the next day — and it’s not my story. I’m lucky to walk to the kitchen.”
Dwyer laughed.
“Everyone in general was very helpful. I had a nurse upstairs — I cannot remember her name — but she was Sandra Bullock’s twin,” she said, convinced. “She cheered me up a lot. She fixed my hair, she braided my hair for me, and did some things I wasn’t able to do — she was real sweet, I was hoping to see her today — wish I could remember her name, but those things just slip.
“Everybody was kind and helpful, and I was totally debilitated. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I was a lot of work for the nurses, and I really appreciate (it).”

The emergency room staff at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center that helped Dwyer included Dr. Jeff Ruzich, Trevor James, Jane Smith and Jimmy Jimenez. The dispatchers from the Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center that answered the call were Terri Sykes and Rae Lynn Villarreal.
Chief Mann said others that assisted were Kenny Barncastle, Heath Metcalf, Carlos Garcia, Jamie Guitierrez and Jed Peacock. What really opened Mann’s eyes to the situation was when Dwyer first came to say thank you.
“She showed up at the fire station to bring these guys doughnuts and they told me the story behind it and I was like, ‘Are you serious?'” Mann said. “Then, I started following up on it and figuring out where she lives, so I could go and talk to her.
“The fact that she is up and walking and neurologically intact is a huge deal. Our national average, it’s about 10 percent of cardiac arrest that they actually return a pulse to you, and only 3 percent of those 10 percent are neurologically intact.”
Mann said this was not a miracle, but rather the product of doing the right thing.
“These guys are trained to do this, and that’s exactly what they did,” he said. “They went to work, and they did what they were supposed to do. Every single person. The dispatchers, the hospital people — everybody did what they were supposed to do, and it just came together. It’s how it’s supposed to work. That’s how we want it to work every single time.”
Dwyer said she also appreciated how everyone was patient with her, especially when having to practically relearn how to perform certain tasks.
“I’m grateful to be here,” she said. “I thank God and these firemen and the dispatchers and the medical staff — they’ve just been great. (It) blows my mind that there are so many skilled people out there that can bring somebody back from the dead.
“I ought to try ‘The Walking Dead,’ see if they might have a spot for me,” she ended, smiling.
Sons said knowing he had a part in saving someone’s life feels amazing.
“It’s good to see her here,” he said. “And, it’s good that she’s not in a worse state that she could be in.”
Mann, looking at Dwyer and everyone in the room who played a role in saving the woman’s life, said he was thankful.
“I think the biggest positive thing or the biggest gain out of this whole thing is these guys being able to meet her and her being able to meet them, and thank them,” Mann said. “I think that’s the biggest positive thing that could possibly come out of this — along with her, of course, being alive.”
Everyone laughed.
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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