Two Breck officers earn medals
BRECKENRIDGE – The irony hasn’t escaped Corinne Purucker.
The Breckenridge Police Department field training officer was told Aug. 1 she and another officer would receive a Life Saving Award medal and certificate for using cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to help save the life of an Illinois man in July.
The next day, she received a call from her sister, who told her their father was in a coma after suffering a heart attack. He’d been playing cards at his Lakeland, Fla., retirement home when he fell off his chair, Purucker said. One man tried to administer CPR, but it was too difficult for him. Others stood by, stunned.
Purucker’s father, Fred, died Aug. 5. He was 83.
“He was playing cards at the clubhouse and fell over in mid-sentence,” Purucker said. “These are all people in their 70s and 80s; it was devastating to these people. Everybody just looked. They’re looking at their own mortality. Fred’s sharp as a tack at 83, and in the middle of a sentence, he falls over and turns blue. To take control is very difficult.”
Purucker is no stranger to CPR, a potentially life-saving technique people can learn in a few hours. She was first certified at 16, when she worked as a nurse’s aide at a hospital in Jackson, Mich.
“I can’t advocate CPR enough,” she said. “There’s a three- to four-minute time frame where it’s so critical. If you don’t get the oxygen to the brain …”
If a person is not breathing and has no pulse, CPR can keep the heart pumping and blood flowing. It involves pushing on the chest over the heart to pump blood manually and giving breaths of air to keep the blood oxygenated and save the brain.
Although it is a relatively simple procedure, a few common problems can thwart a CPR attempt. When someone is unconscious, the back of the tongue can fall back and block the airway. Also, a rescuer can’t be afraid to push hard on a patient’s chest. Time is everything, because the brain can only go without oxygen for a few minutes.
Purucker’s father died not because his heart failed but because the man who tried to give him CPR couldn’t get oxygen into his lungs. Medics from the local fire department arrived within five or 10 minutes, but Fred Purucker was already brain dead. When family decided to remove life support systems, his heart was still beating strong, Purucker said.
A CPR success
Purucker said she is propelled into action when she is paged to a medical call involving a possible heart attack. Such was the case July 9, when she and officers Josh Sundberg and Scott Jagusch arrived at the Trail’s End condominiums on Village Road to help a man whose wife summoned help.
“He was blue as blue could be,” Purucker said. “He had no pulse, no respirations. We did CPR for a good three to four minutes and got him breathing. His pulse came back.”
She relinquished the patient to Summit County Ambulance paramedics just as the man lost his pulse again. Paramedics administered two electrical shocks to the man and rushed him to a waiting Flight For Life helicopter.
“The flight nurse said she didn’t think he was going to make it,” Purucker said. “He was in a quasi-coma. But the next day, he’s sitting up, laughing and joking with his wife. His nurse called us and said if it hadn’t been for us being first on scene, that wouldn’t be happening. It was a wonderful team effort.”
Town and police officials will award medals to Sundberg, who now works on the Front Range, and Purucker at a Breckenridge Town Council meeting Oct. 8. They also will award a medal of commendation to Jagusch, who helped calm the man’s wife while the other two performed CPR.
Purucker has administered CPR on people at least six times in her life. Not every one of her patients has survived, but the odds – and time – are usually against rescuers.
“I’m very proud of her (Purucker) and Josh,” Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman said. “They did exactly what they’re trained to do. It also allows officers to put their job in perspective. So often we have to deal with the negative. This is gratifying.”
“It’s a wonderful feeling to bring someone back,” Purucker said. “You can’t beat it – no matter how many times it happens. It’s an incredible feeling, very emotional. It makes this job worth coming to work for. I’ve been lucky, but I’ll be there in a heartbeat every time.”
After every so-called “save,” Purucker would call her father, a retired firefighter. She remembers the call she made after hospital officials said the Illinois man was going to make it. He’s in therapy, she said, but suffered no brain damage.
“He said, “Honey, that’s what it’s all about,'” Purucker said. “To lose him a month later. … I have no harsh feelings, though. The way I feel is, that’s the way God wanted it. It was just his turn to go.”
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