Sergeant Eddie Forrest is happy that Henry County, Tenn., is home to an Air Evac Lifeteam medical helicopter. Forrest, who works for the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, was transported by the Martin, Tenn., Air Evac crew nearly a few years ago. He is no stranger to heart disease – several years ago Forrest underwent surgery to place stents in his heart.
“As far as I knew, I was good,” he said.
But on April 15, 2014, his heart demanded more attention.
Sheriff Monte Belew and his team secured the Henry County High School auxiliary gym to prepare for a charity game against the Paris Police Department.
“So many of us had not played in years,” Belew said. “We were playing full-court when Eddie became winded and collapsed on gym floor.”
Several of the deputies jumped into action. Sgt. Bruce Alexander grabbed the Automated External Defibrillator (AED), and Investigator Adam Jenkins and Belew removed the device and prepared to shock their friend and co-worker.
“I was recently trained on how to use the AED,” the sheriff said. “After we shocked him we began CPR and Eddie regained consciousness.”
The Henry County Medical Center EMS arrived at the high school and took Forrest to Henry County Medical Center.
“The helicopter was already there, waiting on me,” Forrest said.
The Martin Air Evac Lifeteam crew of pilot Stephen Clayton, flight nurse Reba Montgomery and flight paramedic Chad Moore flew Forrest to Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, where he underwent two surgeries and received a total of six more stents.
Forrest has been in law enforcement for 23 years, and his wife, Amanda, works for the Paris Police Department. The worst part of the whole experience, he said, was knowing that his sons witnessed their father’s collapse.
“Tyler and Brandon were 9 and 11, and they were at the gym watching me practice,” he said. “Amanda was at home, but she heard it on the scanner.”
“I was folding clothes,” Amanda recalled. “We never have the scanner turned on – you know, we like to leave work at work. But for some reason it was on.”
Flight nurse Reba Montgomery called Amanda to let her know Eddie was at Saint Thomas Hospital.
“We were on the way, and had made it to Dickson when she called,” Amanda said. “They made it there so fast. You honestly wouldn’t believe how good that made me feel. She was as nice as she could be.”
Amanda is certain that had everything not fallen into place that night, her husband would not be here.
“A wonderful group of ladies really pushed to get those AEDs, and I really want to thank them, too,” she said. “Everyone involved played such an important role in saving Eddie’s life.”
Twila Rose, director of Henry County Medical Center EMS, said the chain of survival worked on April 15, 2014.
“It was a group effort,” Rose said. “The Sheriff using the AED, the EMS crew, Air Evac and Saint Thomas all played such important roles. The early activation of Air Evac helped get Eddie where he needed to be in the time he needed to get there.”
Early activation of the Air Evac crew can and does save lives. The crew is called, and if a medical helicopter is not needed, they return to base.
“Early activation is a new thing for us,” Rose said. “We were able to load straight onto the helicopter and got Eddie to Saint Thomas.”
Dr. Mark Stankewicz is a Cardiologist and Medical Director of the Saint Thomas Chest Pain Network.
“By advocating system-wide best practices and creating strong partnerships between air medical transport providers, local EMS and emergency physicians, critical care nurses and cardiologists, more lives are being saved due to significantly shortened time to treatment. ” Stankewicz said.
“The chain of survival worked,” Rose added. “Eddie is a walking, talking survivor who has the same quality of life now as he did before the cardiac arrest.”