Chief Warrant Officer Randy Litka was walking through the Philadelphia Airport last June when a man suddenly collapsed 20 to 30 feet ahead of him. He was shocked as people just walked around the man as he laid motionless on the floor.
“I could tell he was having a seizure,” said Litka, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation section chief at Training Center Yorktown, Va. “He was turning blue and purple.” Without thought he ran to the man’s side and began assessing the situation and discovered that he was not breathing.
“I tried to position his jaw for rescue breathing but he too stiff,” he said. “I had to push down on his jaw but I was able to get started.” The victim’s color slowly came back and he eventually regained consciousness. Disoriented, he sat up asking where he was.
Litka said the man insisted on not waiting for more help as airport security arrived and brought the victim a chair. Before they had a chance to convince the man to rest he seized again, this time was much worse.
“His color instantly changed to a gray purple,” said Litka who grabbed the man and returned him to the floor. He couldn’t find a pulse and realized he was in cardiac arrest so he began CPR.
By now a crowd was growing around the scene and a man emerged offering to help. The good Samaritan took over the chest compressions and rescue breathing freeing Litka to grab a portable defibrillator that was on the wall nearby.
He returned and kneeled by the victim to attach the electrodes but wasn’t able to un-button his shirt.
“I was shaking so much I just had to rip it open,” said Litka.
The machine told them to stop CPR so it could evaluate him. In a few seconds the defibrillator announced that the victim had no pulse and warned them to clear away from the body so it could send a shock to the victim.
“When we were clear I pushed the button,” said Litka, sending a jolt through the man’s chest. They sat silently waiting for the results from the machine as people prayed and shouted, “it’s not your time to go!” he said.
The victim registered a faint breath and the defibrillator registered a pulse. As paramedics arrived and took over a few minutes later the crowd of hundreds that had formed cheered loudly for Litka and the good Samaritan.
He later found out that the victim had survived. He attributed his ability to save the man to his 15 years of sea service.
“When you’re on a ship they train,” he said, describing drills where people would drop just as the victim in the airport did. Because of this, he was ready to perform CPR and use the defibrillator even though this was the first time he had ever treated a real victim.
“That’s what we do,” he said. “We train to save lives.”
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