Fitness center employees save life

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crensahaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Dave Ellicks spent his Thanksgiving in a hospital room, but he still had a lot to be thankful for.

On Nov. 24, the Monday before Thanksgiving, he was walking on the indoor track at the base fitness center when he suffered a heart attack. He would have died, his doctor told him, had it not been for the efforts of three Airmen working at the center who used a defibrillator and CPR to revive him.

On Dec. 10, he returned to work, made his first visit to the fitness center since the attack and thanked the people who saved him.

A man of few words, he summed up his feelings about the trio in a succinct manner.

"I love them," he said.

His guardian angels that day came in the form of fitness center employees Staff Sgt. Ericka Simpson, Staff Sgt. Kandra Truesdale and Airman 1st Class Porsha Cook.

They were alerted by a coworker that a man was down on the walking track, and immediately broke the defibrillator out of a box on the wall, setting off a red light and an alarm. They ran upstairs and found Mr. Ellicks, 57, unconscious and not breathing. At one point he started turning purple.

The trio began to engage in a life-saving effort that they had all been trained for, but had never performed for real. When they pulled off Mr. Ellicks shirt, they saw he had a scar on his chest from a previous heart surgery.

"When we saw that scar, that pretty much said enough," Airman Cook said in recounting the event. "I was a little freaked."

Sergeant Simpson delivered one shock, and then while the defibrillator was monitoring for a heart beat, they began performing CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Within two minutes, before another shock was needed, Mr. Ellicks regained a pulse and started wheezing.

By that time the Houston Medical Center EMTs who are stationed on the base arrived and took over. They transported him to the hospital. He later had a defibrillator implanted in his chest that will give him a shock if he has any future heart trouble.

Mr. Ellicks, an engineer in the corrosion office, is a 27-year employee at Robins. A few months ago doctors advised him he needed to bring his blood pressure down, so he starting going to the fitness center regularly. His blood pressure dropped and he lost 20 pounds.

His doctors told him his heart attack had nothing to do with the fact he was excercising. His heart was fine, Mr. Ellicks said. It was the electrical impulses controlling the heart were out of whack. The attack could have happened any time, but as it turned out it happened in a place where there was a defibrillator and people who knew how to use it.

That's why the incident is not going to deter him from his exercise program. He plans to start back next week. In fact, he said, his doctors said he might well have died had it not been for the fact that he had gotten himself in better shape.

Chief Master Sgt. Ron Allison, who works in the corrosion control office with Mr. Ellicks, said he was impressed the women were able to keep their composure despite their young age and it being their first time using CPR.

"It showed a lot of character and a lot of confidence in their training," he said.

Everyone who works in the fitness center is trained on the defibrillator. Sergeant Simpson, NCO in charge at the fitness center, said she was pleased with how everyone responded.

"I think they did an awesome job," she said. "We were able to stay composed throughout and actually do what we trained to do. I was very proud of my staff."