EMT's quick action may have saved electrocution victim's life

Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps EMT Chris Sweeney on call at an athletic event. Sweeney helped save the life of a man who was electrocuted. — Contributed photo
Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps EMT Chris Sweeney on call at an athletic event. Sweeney helped save the life of a man who was electrocuted. — Contributed photo

A tree worker who was electrocuted may owe his life to the immediate medical attention he received when it turned out the incident occurred at the home of Chris Sweeney, an EMT with the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Sweeney, 19, was at home from college at 55 Ruscoe Road Wednesday evening, June 5, at 6:38 p.m., when the boom on the tree company's truck came in contact with power lines, energizing the truck.
The 25-year-old man, who was working on the ground, then went to open the door of the truck and received a shock, sending him into cardiac arrest, the ambulance corps said on its Facebook page.

"I was in my room and luckily my mom was pulling in the driveway and saw it happen," Sweeney told The Bulletin. After the shock, "he stiffened up like a plank of wood and fell over."

Sweeney's mother called out to him "and I was outside 30 seconds after it happened." As Sweeney was responding, the truck operator was able to move the boom, so it was no longer electrified, making it safe for Sweeney to approach the man.

"He didn't have a pulse when I got out there," said Sweeney, who started doing compressions — hands-only CPR — for several minutes before police and firefighters arrived to assist. "He was getting cold almost," Sweeney added. "It was not looking good."

While Sweeney was administering compressions, his neighbor, Jeff Lapnow, came over and helped with CPR. Once police and firefighters arrived, an automated external defibrillator (AED) was brought out and  put on the patient. "It didn't advise a shock, so we did more CPR," Sweeney said.

A second time, the AED did not advise a shock. This time, EMS workers hooked the patient to a LUCAS machine, which mechanically performs compressions. The third time they attached the AED, it advised a shock.
“When the first shock with an AED was delivered, ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation) was achieved, with a good pulse and blood pressure with the patient breathing on his own,” the corps reported.
The patient was taken to Norwalk Hospital where he is in critical condition, according to a police report on Thursday morning, however also Thursday morning, the ambulance corps said the man’s family contacted the Sweeneys and said it appears the patient will recover.
"If not for the immediate CPR that EMT Chris provided, there may have been a very different outcome," ambulance corps vice president Brian McDermott said in the Facebook post.
Police say the man who was injured  is from Stamford and was working with a tree crew from M. Lato Tree Company, trimming trees in the Sweeneys' driveway. The incident is under investigation by the Wilton Police Department and OSHA.
It was fortunate Sweeney was home at the time of the incident, the corps said. “EMT Chris was not supposed to be home last night. He was actually supposed to go to his EMT re-certification class but had to postpone that training due to a last-minute conflict,” the Facebook post said.
Sweeney has been an EMT since January or February of 2016, he said. He is home for the summer from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he is studying pre-med and is on track to go to medical school.

"I've always wanted to be a doctor, and my friend's mom joined the ambulance corps and that's how I heard about it," he said, explaining how he came to join the volunteer organization. "I thought that was really cool and I wanted to see if I liked the medical field at an early age. So I wanted to get a foot in the door and just generally want to help people.

"This is definitely the most serious call I’ve had," Sweeney said. "Everyone I’ve had before has been alive when I got to them."
Sweeney was quick to credit all Wilton's emergency responders who arrived at his home. "Everybody who came on scene — fire police, EMS  — did an amazing job. They  drove straight through our yard, got the AED as quickly as possible. It's because of them this guy’s alive."
“Although Chris is one of our EMTs, anyone with CPR training, even Hands Only CPR, could have easily stepped in and saved this mans life. We cannot stress enough the importance of everyone taking a CPR course. There is a very good chance, the life you save may be someone you know and love,” the ambulance corps Facebook post concluded.