Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

The Collins family has many reasons to be thankful this year, but the most important is that they can continue to spend time with their husband and father Darell.

Darell was reported clinically dead after he fell in his home in March. Fort Dick Volunteer Fire Department personnel were on scene in five minutes, followed by Del Norte Ambulance personnel two minutes later. Finding Darell unresponsive, they employed the Lucas Chest Compression system. The device differs from a defibrillator in that it doesn’t use jolts of electricity but actually performs compressions on the ribcage of a patient, just like CPR. It reduces the time between response and hospital by allowing CPR to be conducted while the patient is being readied for transport, as well as in the ambulance.

Darell’s wife Anita said she was led out of the room by first responders as they started to work on Darell.

Neighbor Kevin Tupman came over and was in the room with Darell, leaving occasionally to offer updates to the family.

“I knew the situation was critical, so I just tried to stay back out of the way, and keep the emotion away so the paramedics could do their job,” he said. “I’ve been training in CPR my whole life and gone through the training with AEDs and life support. This was the first time I had firsthand experience watching them in action, and it amazed me how well they worked together.” Tupman said personnel, each performing a function, surrounded Darell as they communicated with each other.

“I’d never seen the Lucas device. I didn’t even know it existed,” Tupman said. “I heard the lead person say, ‘He just flatlined, we gotta get him back. Everybody, hands off.’ Then the AED started talking and the Lucas device started doing compressions. I was just amazed, Wow, what a device...” Tupman said as an experienced CPR provider, he wondered if he would have the physical stamina to repeat chest compressions for a long period of time, especially on a larger patient.

“That device did its job, effectively and quickly,” Tupman said. “[Responders] didn’t have to change positions and change people. It was on him and it did its job.”

Darell doesn’t remember that night, but said he was out 40 minutes before responders brought him back to life.

“Humans don’t have that endurance,” he said. “It’s that device and the Lord’s doing that saved my life. I just can’t say enough about the fire department and the paramedics who showed up and that device. It’s a life-saving thing and they are highly trained individuals who are using it.”

Darell said every medical agency in the county needs to have the device and necessary training. Anita said the device also lessens the risk of broken ribs and subsequent punctured organs.

“There was no [outward] injury to me at all to get me to Medford and into continued care,” Darell said.

Darell was first taken to Sutter Coast Hospital where staff worked on him for four hours before flying him by Cal Ore Life Flight to Medford.

Moving forward

“I’m on top of the game,” Darell said when asked how he’s been feeling. “I’m going forward, getting my stamina back. I went through some rehab, and obviously I still have far more to go, but I haven’t been released by my cardiac doctor to do much more.” Darell said Thursday that he had one more exam before he can be allowed to do more physical things, such as working out in a gym to regain strength.

Darell noted that he has lost about 140 pounds since March. A message from the family Friday said Darell has been released by his doctor and is allowed to “do anything but drive.”

Darell said the first month out of the hospital was “like being a rock star,” based on the amount of community support he and his family received.

He and Anita wanted to express thanks to Tupman, the community who prayed for him and the medical personnel who fought to keep him alive.

Miracle devices

“Last year, Del Norte Ambulance purchased four Lucas CPR devices for local fire departments,” Sander told the Board of Supervisors at its May 9 meeting. “Since then, they have been deployed several times for individuals who require high quality CPR. I’ve been asked over and over, ‘Why would you spend $50,000 for these devices that you can’t bill for?’”

Rather than explain, Sander recalled that in February, Fort Dick Fire Department opted to use the device on a patient who was clinically dead. Ambulance crew members performed life support intervention along with FDFD, he said.

In an email to the Triplicate, Del Norte Ambulance General Manager John Pritchett said the device that helped save Collins’ life was donated to FDFD by Del Norte Ambulance.

“Today I’m happy to say why we spent these funds and introduce Mr. Dale Collins,” he said, turning to Collins, who was seated in the audience at the supervisors’ meeting. “I’m glad to see the Lucas device did what it was supposed to do.”

Del Norte Ambulance Manager John Pritchett gave a similar presentation to the City Council May 15.

Sandler, assisted by Del Norte Ambulance personnel, presented the Board of Supervisors with an Automated External Defibrillator to be placed inside the Flynn Center.

“In the Flynn Center, there’s a lot of foot traffic, leading to a high likelihood of needing an AED one day,” he said, presenting an AED machine and wall case to the board. “We plan to make available, training to staff in CPR and AED use.”

County CAO Jay Sarina said later that the county intends to take up the offer of training, as soon as it’s available. He said the AED device will likely be mounted on the wall near the board chambers.