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Nurse uses lifesaving app to find, try to help man in cardiac arrest

West Linn's Heather Roms was alerted by her smartphone


by: VERN UYETAKE - Heather Roms was inside her car near Pediatric Dental when she saw and heard the alert on her phone that someone nearby was having a cardiac emergency. The app gave her the address and location, and Roms quickly drove to Shari's Restaurant, where a man was having a cardiac emergency.A labor and delivery nurse who’s accustomed to using the most modern technology to save newborns in jeopardy relied on just her own skills to try and save a man’s life last week.

Heather Roms, 39, of West Linn, was just leaving her daughter’s dentist appointment about 9 a.m. March 27 on Southwest Town Center Loop in Wilsonville when she received an alert on her smartphone that someone nearby was having a cardiac emergency.

It was the first time she had seen the alert on her phone, and she guessed she must be pretty close to where it was taking place.

At first, the PulsePoint application showed only the address of the location where the emergency was happening. Those who subscribe to the app receive notification of the emergency at the same time as first responders.

In this instance, first responders were paramedics from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and AMR ambulance.

At first, Roms wondered whether she should respond, not knowing how instantaneously she received the alert.

“Honestly, I didn’t know where it was,” she said. “But the next thing it showed me was an aerial view of the exact location and I immediately recognized by the roofline that it was Shari’s Restaurant.”

With her three children in the car, Roms drove around Town Center Loop West and entered the Shari’s parking lot. She said she saw a few people huddled around a car and she ascertained that this must be the cardiac victim.

The man was slumped in the passenger seat and Roms discovered he had no vital signs.

“I took a quick assessment, checked his pulse and breathing, did a sternal rub,” she said. “He was a very large man, and I was not able to lift him out of the car. I yelled for help to get him out.”

As soon as Roms and others who came to help were able to get the man out of the vehicle and onto the ground in the parking lot, Roms quickly began administering hands-only CPR.

“My best estimation is that I was doing CPR for about two and a half minutes, because I was just shy of three cycles (of CPR) by myself until they arrived,” she said. “They were able to take over chest compressions.”

However, once the ambulance arrived, paramedics asked the man’s wife pointedly whether he had a living will or end-of-life request, Roms said. The man’s wife indicated that he did not want to be hooked up to machines.

“That tempered our heroic efforts,” Roms said. “I imagine that he had already been without a pulse for quite some time, even before I arrived.”

Nevertheless, Roms had assisted paramedics and fire crews with trying to save the man’s life until it was determined he had a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Using her CPR skills on the man in Wilsonville was quite different than the efforts Roms typically uses at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, where she is a registered nurse in the labor and delivery department.by: VERN UYETAKE - Heather Roms of West Linn was in Wilsonville for an appointment when she received an alert from the PulsePoint app she's showing here that someone was having a cardiac emergency.

“To maternal patients, I use CPR very infrequently,” she said. “To newborns, I use it slightly more. But you just use your thumbs and we have a variety of tools we use. This was a really different experience.”

However, Roms said she felt very calm in the situation, and that she knew exactly what to do.

“At the beginning, when I uploaded the app, I knew that I had the skills and the comfort level to respond to a situation,” she said. “So, the actual performing of the CPR felt very comfortable. At the end of the day, it wasn’t the happy outcome you hoped to achieve, and certainly I send my deep condolences to his wife and family. But it shows that this app works in what it was supposed to do, with the right person with the right skills in the right place.”

Hopefully, she added, next time the outcome will be better.

“My kids check on the app a lot, but I thought it was probably a long shot, for all of the stars to come together, that I would be using this. I thought that the most likely scenario would be that I would have to respond in my neighborhood.”

And speaking of her children, the three of them remained respectfully in the car while their mother swiftly moved into action.

Later, she said, they asked appropriate questions and she answered them candidly.

“I think they took it all in stride, and asked questions until they were satisfied with the answers,” Roms said. “They were sad that I didn’t let them out of the car until the scene was more secure. But they knew that the man passed away.”

The idea of someone dying was not foreign to her children. Both Roms and her husband are nurses and they have talked to their children at an appropriate level about their careers. Their oldest daughter has been instructed about what she should do if she happens to find someone in a cardiac emergency.

“They are very comfortable with all things medical,” Roms said.

TVF&R Spokesman Tim Nokes said this is the first time a citizen has used the PulsePoint alert since it was launched in January. To date, there are nearly 4,000 subscribers.

Roms said she heard about the app from her mother, who works at Wood Middle School in Wilsonville.

The PulsePoint app enables subscribers who have indicated they are CPR-trained to be alerted to a cardiac arrest event at the same TVF&R’s firefighters are alerted. The app uses sophisticated location-based services to alert citizens of the need for CPR in a public place, and directs them to the exact location of the nearest public access automated external defibrillator.

Visit TVF&R’s website, tvfr.com, for more information on the life-saving benefits of the PulsePoint app. The app can be downloaded for free from either iTunes or Google Play.




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