Red Cross will honor Island EMT with hero award

Quick action last June by Tri-Town Ambulance EMT Kristina West helped save the life of Chris MacLeod.

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Tri-Town Ambulance EMT Kristina West, right, performed lifesaving CPR on Chris MacLeod, center, after Rodney Bunker, left, got him to the ambulance headquarters. – Photo by Michael Cummo

It’s official. Tri-Town Ambulance EMT Kristina West is a hero.

The Red Cross of the Cape, Islands, and Southeastern Massachusetts named Ms. West the recipient of the Sheriff Donald Tulloch Professional Hero Award. She and 11 other individuals will be honored for their lifesaving efforts at a Red Cross Heroes Breakfast on April 10 in Hyannis.

Kristina West was on the second solo shift of her young career, and she’d never treated a patient in full cardiac arrest before, when Chris MacLeod, 47, arrived at the Chilmark ambulance barn.

Mr. MacLeod, a carpenter, was working by himself at the town’s North Road fire station on the morning of June 18, one of the warmest days of the year, when he began to feel ill. Chilmark town custodian Rodney Bunker brought Mr. MacLeod to the barn.

As Ms. West recalled in a story published July 10, “Miracle in Menemsha,” “Then I saw Chris and we sat him in a chair right away. It wasn’t long, less than a minute, until he coded.”

“Coded” is medical-speak for cardiac arrest — the heart stops pumping and the lungs stop breathing. Essentially, the person has died.

More experienced medics rushing to help were delayed by an accident, leaving the diminutive EMT alone to perform CPR. Medical guidelines call for 100 chest compressions per minute for a man of Mr. MacLeod’s size, an extremely demanding physical effort. For 15 minutes, Ms. West kept him alive until backup help arrived.

Mr. MacLeod’s heart stopped again several times as he was taken to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and then transported aboard a Medflight helicopter to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. His heart stopped twice more during surgery, but doctors were able to repair two blocked arteries, and Mr. MacLeod was back at his Chilmark home just one week later. Doctors said the emergency care provided by Ms. West and her Island colleagues was critical in avoiding heart and brain damage.

“In Chris’s case, a full recovery is quite miraculous,” said Dr. Donald Cutlip, a Beth Israel cardiologist, a few days after Mr. MacLeod’s surgery. “Years ago, only a few percent of bystanders knew CPR. As more people learn it, these miracles will happen more often.”

“He was in the right place, surrounded by people who knew exactly what to do, and they did it properly,” said Dr. Amjad AlMahameed, also a Beth Israel cardiologist. “The outcome of a heart attack is determined in the first 15 minutes. The first responders and the staff at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital deserve the credit for protecting his brain.”

The breakfast is from 7:30 am to 9 am at the Hyannis Resort and Conference Center. For tickets or more information, call 508-775-1540.