Reservist helps save life of baby in cardiac arrest

By Airman 1st Class Madelyn McCullough/446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs on February 22, 2013

A 446th Airlift Wing Reservist saved his first life when a baby went into cardiac arrest the morning of Feb. 12 at the Madigan Army Medical Center emergency room.

Airman 1st Class Barrett Rayan, aeromedical evacuation technician with the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and in training at MAMC, was near the end of his 12-hour night shift when a baby was rushed in with low oxygen levels.

"The baby was having what are called retractions, which looks like their skin is being sucked under their ribs because they are trying aggressively to breathe," Rayan said.

In the ER, a team of two resident doctors, an attending physician, three nurses and Rayan, the only medic, began pumping oxygen into the infant's lungs to try and raise his oxygen level back to normal.

Multiple efforts were made to insert tubes and create an airway for him but nothing was working. They had to insert a paralytic so that the baby's muscles relaxed enough to accept the tubing. When doing so, the doctor knew the baby's oxygen level would plummet, but he was not expecting cardiac arrest.

"The baby turned blue," Rayan said. "I saw his O-2 (oxygen) stats hit zero; zero oxygen."

It's a rare occurrence, he said. One nurse, who'd been working in the ER for five years, had never before seen a pediatric cardiac arrest.

To keep the child's heart beating, they had to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, which is different than doing CPR on an adult. On an infant, CPR requires wrapping hands around the baby's body and place thumbs on the chest.

Rayan, who has never done CPR on a live person before, took the second turn.

"They told me I was up next and I went in," he said. "Your training kind of takes over when you're in a situation like that."

After continuous compressions at 100 beats per minute for nearly 15 minutes, the baby's body finally accepted the tubes. He could breathe normally again and his oxygen levels shot back up to the healthy level.

Aside from the shaky start, the effort was a success and the team handled it the best way an emergency situation can be handled, Rayan said. Everyone stayed calm, on point, and did what they needed to do.

"The fact that they can do their job and yet still keep such a lighthearted mood in such a serious situation is a really important thing because if the kid had not made it, it's hard on a lot of people," he said.

Rayan has been at Madigan nearly three weeks out of the three-month training period he is assigned. So far he has completed five-and-a-half months of medical technical training and six weeks of training at a hospital. He still has seven months of training left.

"It's a good feeling knowing everything I learned really can make a difference," he said. "We have a lot of info we have to learn during tech school; it's very fast-paced. When the time comes you either know or you don't, and I knew."