Sheriff’s deputies Trevor Jensen and Aaron Ordonez received praise for going above and beyond the call of duty on a particularly difficult call at last week’s Grant County Commission meeting.
The call involved an unusual amount of medical assistance, including driving Ordoñez’s ambulance, something he had done only once in his eight-year career with the department. Offering medical aid, however, is not a critical part of law enforcement duties, and officials say steps are being taken within the department to reflect that need.
At approximately 12:15 a.m. on Nov. 3, a 911 caller in Arenas Valley reported an unresponsive man was found on his property, according to a police report. He said he had just sold his house, and told the 44-year-old man that if he could get some steel off his property, he could take it, according to what he later told Ordonez. .
According to the report, the woman went to a warehouse on the property to get some buckets, and when she returned she found the man hanging from the door frame of her truck and said she thought he had a seizure. Is. He fell to the ground, where he attempted to administer CPR before calling 911. She said he was unresponsive, and had no pulse.
EMTs arrived first, followed by Ordoñez, who immediately called Jensen for backup.
“We needed another body to help with CPR,” Ordoñez said. “At that point, it was just me and an old man doing CPR, while the paramedics were trying to intubate.”
Ordoñez explained that while the older gentleman was an experienced EMT, CPR is physically demanding, even for the fittest responder. Ordoñez, Jensen and the responding paramedics took turns in two positions: one applying chest compressions, the other draining fluid from the man’s mouth while squeezing a bag of air into his lungs.
Other interventions include Narcan and epinephrine, which are used to treat opioid overdose and allergic reactions, respectively. The patient did not respond.
After speaking with a doctor at the Gila Regional Medical Center, the team was told to take the man to the hospital.
Knowing that all hands were needed to continue CPR, Ordoñez jumped into the driver’s seat of the ambulance, while Jensen followed in his police car.
Ordoñez knew what to do this time, he said, because he was put in a similar situation years ago, when he was brand new on the force.
“Later, the paramedic in the back said slow down the turn,” Ordonez recalled. “An ambulance is not like any old car – there’s a big box in the back with people in it.”
With that hard-won wisdom and years of added experience, Ordoñez said that when he was considering his gear, his focus was on the road.
“During the day, emergency lights are hard to see,” he explained. “Even though the lights and sirens are on, many people have their radios on and are not paying attention to their rearview mirror.”
Ordoñez pulled into Gila Regional Medical Center’s emergency bay and immediately jumped back in to help relieve his partner on CPR duty. He accompanied Gurney to the ER, where nurses and doctors took over.
Physically exhausted and out of breath after more than 45 minutes of CPR, Ordonez said he went straight back to work. Jensen was there to walk her back to her car in Arenas Valley.
Although it doesn’t happen often, Sheriff Frank Gomez said it’s not unheard of for law enforcement to drive an ambulance. Officers often respond with medical aid, and in severe cases, the driver – who is usually also an EMT – is required to assist the patient.
“In the county, most emergencies are EMS,” Gomez said. “but if [a case] is severe … Dispatch makes a decision based on protocol on whether to page an officer.
All law enforcement officers in New Mexico are required to have basic CPR training, Ordoñez said. He estimates that he answers about 35-40 percent of the calls that require him to provide some type of medical response, often CPR.
“It’s just so we can free up some hands,” he said. “Anyone on the scene is there to help where they need it.”
Deputies are also trained to administer other basic treatments, such as bandages and tourniquets, which are now included in every officer’s trauma packet.
“Four or five months ago, we bought trauma bags,” Gomez said. Gila Regional “Trained by EMS Director Eloy Medina.”
Ordoñez said the department is also considering offering basic EMT training. He said that while he would be interested — and could help in more situations if he had more training — that would not affect the Nov. 3 call.
As for the accolade, Ordonez said it was his first in eight years.
“It’s great to be recognized,” he said. “But with this kind of work, you do a lot of good things, and you’re not always going to be recognized.”
And when he first got the call the day before at the County Commission meeting to receive the award, Ordoñez said he had no idea what it was for.
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