Howard County (IN) Volunteers Honored for Saving Man’s Life

It was all smiles and gratitude recently during a special ceremony held outside the Howard County Emergency Management Agency's Berkley Complex.

Kim Dunlap

Kokomo Tribune, Ind.

(MCT)

It was all smiles and gratitude recently during a special ceremony held outside the Howard County Emergency Management Agency’s Berkley Complex; a wave of accolades for a job well done.

Whether it’s at a house fire, a crime scene or just a funeral procession that weaves its way across town, you often see the men and women of the EMA hard at work.

Of course, most of that work is done behind the scenes and away from the limelight that is often cast upon first responders like firefighters and police officers.

But their job is equally as important, local EMA officials note, and sometimes even life-saving.

Such was the case on Sept. 18.

It was around 9:30 p.m., and Westfield resident and band parent David Morgan was loading up props and hauling equipment after Westfield High School’s performance during the Northwestern Marching Band Invitational.

“So we were taking everything off the field, and we just got to the point where we got the equipment past the goal post,” Morgan said during a phone interview with the Tribune this past week. “That was the last thing I remember.”

It was around that moment that Morgan collapsed onto the field.

Those around him, including a local dental hygienist named Heather Kirby, who was acting as Westfield’s event guide at the time, and a fellow Westfield band parent quickly cleared Morgan’s airway and began chest compressions.

That’s when Howard County EMA volunteers Brian Pogue and Craig Nelson — there to offer assistance to whomever needed it that day — heard someone frantically call for EMS.

“We went running to the field and saw him lying on the ground,” Nelson said. “So we both just dropped down and started evaluating him. I told him (Pogue) that we needed to start CPR while we got the AED (automated external defibrillator) ready. So we took turns doing CPR, and we kept analyzing him until the AED said that a shock was advised.”

Of course because EMA work is all volunteer, both Nelson and Pogue have regular jobs outside of the agency.

Nelson has worked for over 30 years as a firefighter and EMT, while Pogue works as a local school bus driver.

But that moment, with Morgan lying lifeless on the ground in front of them, is where all the EMA training kicked in, the two men said.

“We do a lot of things no one sees, and a lot of people probably think we’re wannabes,” Pogue said, “but we train just as much and as hard as everyone else.”

That training includes mandatory annual CPR and AED training, Nelson added.

“We have the same certification and training, even though we’re not classified as first responders,” he said. “… We’re out here every single day on calls, whether it’s police, fire or medic runs. We’re right there with them (first responders) at the scenes.”

So for several minutes that September evening on Northwestern’s football field, Pogue and Nelson worked on Morgan’s body, never once giving up hope, they said.

“Everything went so smoothly,” Nelson said. When I needed to switch out, he (Pogue) took over without me having to say anything. It couldn’t have gone smoother. … And within just a few minutes his (Morgan’s) eyes started to open up. He couldn’t talk, and I don’t know if he was really cognizant of what I was asking him, but I kept asking him yes and no questions. … Next thing we knew, the medics had rolled up. We helped load him into the ambulance, and off he went.”

Morgan was transported to Community Howard Regional Health and then onto a hospital in Indianapolis, where it was later discovered that he had two completely blocked arteries in his heart and another one that was close to 99%.

“They basically said I was dead and was then brought back to life,” Morgan said, adding that he has since undergone a successful triple bypass surgery and is now on the road to a full recovery.

Morgan also had a message for those — like Pogue and Nelson — who ultimately saved his life that day.

“I’m still here because of them,” he said. “They’re heroes and angels to me, and I’d love to meet them again one day. That’d be awesome.”

That feeling is mutual too.

“Out in the field, it’s very rare that a patient or family will remember the EMT or the medics that kept them alive or brought them back,” Nelson said. “They always remember the doctors or nurses in the ER. So very rarely do we hear back from people after they leave the ambulance. But we still often wonder how they are.

“Yeah, it’d be nice to see him again,” he added. “I just pray he’s doing well and gets to have another day with his family. … Here it is coming up on the holiday season, and they all get to spend it together.”

Janice Hart is the director of the Howard County EMA, and she said she’s proud of the work Pogue and Nelson did that day.

“A guy is alive and able to tell about it due to what my guys did,” she said. “… It’s just not something we do or are involved with every day. So I think this is just a nice story and a neat outcome, and I want to recognize my volunteers for that.”

For John Gingerich, chief of the agency’s EMS department, what Pogue and Nelson did that night is also indicative of all the “heroes” that work with the Howard County EMA every single day.

“These guys are like family,” he said, “they really are. We’re all one big family. … They were in the right place at the right time and knew the right thing to do. … We’re in the background on a lot of things that happen around Howard County. It’s often a thankless job. But we all pitch in 110% to make sure things work as they’re supposed to and that everyone eventually goes home safe at the end of it.”

Kim Dunlap can be reached at 765-860-3256 or at kim.dunlap@kokomotribune.com.

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