Written by Lt. j.g. Anne Newton, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Albacore.
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Albacore leaped into action to save a man’s life, but they didn’t battle huge ocean waves, high winds or dangerous rip tide to do so. This rescue took place during history class.
Earlier that day, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Albacore, an 87-foot patrol boat, pulled into Sector Field Office Fort Macon and moored for the evening after a patrol off the North Carolina coast. Chief Petty Officer Robert Kuzak, executive petty officer of Albacore, retired to an office in the small-boat station near the pier to catch up on some paperwork. While working, Kuzak heard a commotion – people were yelling that a man was having a seizure in a joint college and Coast Guard-hosted U.S. history class at the building across the parking lot.
Kuzak realized that help, especially a qualified emergency medical technician, was needed, so he ran back to the Albacore, knowing the ship’s food service specialist, Petty Officer 2nd Class David Blonn, was EMT qualified.
Blonn had just finished preparing dinner aboard the cutter when Kuzak rushed in and informed the crew of what was happening. Blonn rushed up from the galley and grabbed his EMT pack.
“Don’t forget our AED,” yelled Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Hogan, referring to the ship’s automated external defibrillator. Kuzak, Blonn and two others hurried off the boat.
When the crewmembers arrived on scene, the victim was on the floor, his face was blue, his tongue white and his eyes were rolled back into his head. Chief Petty Officer Shane Wetterstrom from the sector, who was also attending the class, was in the already in the process of performing CPR, breathing for the victim while a civilian student attempted chest compressions.
Kuzak and Blonn hooked the AED up to the victim.
“When I applied the pads and waited for the AED to analyze the victim it really surprised me when the AED told me that shock was advised,” said Kuzak.
Reality set in when they realized how emergent the situation was. After the first shock, the AED analyzed the victim again and advised that further shocks were required. Between shocks, Kuzak took over chest compressions from the civilian while Blonn started setting up an oxygen tank and a bag valve mask from his EMT pack to assist Wetterstrom with the rescue breathing.
After the third shock, the rescuers felt the victim’s pulse starting to beat in a steady rhythm, and the victim began breathing weakly on his own. A Carteret County ambulance crew arrived on scene, and first responders took over the rescue effort. Kuzak, Blonn and a crewmember from the Albacore helped transport the victim down a narrow flight of stairs to the awaiting ambulance.
“I’m very grateful we had the proper gear and got it to him in time,” said Blonn.
The heroic actions of the crewmembers and the staff of the sector resulted in a life saved that evening. It was the first time either Kuzak or Blonn had used an AED and performed CPR in real life, and it was a moment they will never forget for the rest of their lives.
It has been said that life is often about being in the right place at the right time. But these crewmembers proved it is how you seize the movement.