In Other News
It is a paramedic’s job to care for people in need, but it’s not every day that a paramedic brings someone back to life.
By Tyler Midkiff
Larson Newspapers

It is a paramedic’s job to care for people in need, but it’s not every day that a paramedic brings someone back to life.

Verde Valley Medical Center recently awarded Sedona Fire District paramedic Mark Freel the Paramedic of the Year award for the second straight year.

In 2006, Freel responded to a call about a man in the Village of Oak Creek experiencing chest pains. The man had been hospitalized for a heart attack before.

When Freel arrived at the scene, he could immediately tell the man was having a heart attack, he said.

“It was the worst pain I’ve seen somebody in. It was the real deal, for sure,” he said.

Allen Schimberg, a paramedic fresh out of training, was riding with him at the time.

“It was his first real call,” Freel said. “For a new medic, he did a really good job.”

Freel administered aspirin, nitroglycerin and morphine to the patient while he alerted the cardiologist at VVMC.

The man’s condition continued to worsen as they approached the hospital, Freel said.

“We gave him all the morphine we had and it still really didn’t do much for his pain, which is strange,” he said.

They got to the hospital parking lot and were preparing to transfer the patient to the emergency room when his heart stopped beating, Freel said.

He went into ventricular fibrillation, which means the ventricular muscle in his heart stopped contracting and began twitching randomly.

Freel said it is often the last thing one sees before a patient dies.

Schimberg began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the unconscious patient while Freel prepared the defibrillator.

“I was just getting ready to charge the monitor up when the doctor came,” Freel said.

The doctor checked for the patient’s pulse and couldn’t find one, so he gave the go-ahead to shock him, Freel explained.

“So we shocked him,” he said.

Within 10 to 15 seconds, the patient’s pulse returned.

Moments later, he regained consciousness.

“He came out screaming and he looked really scared,” Freel said.

Freel tried to calm the man down and help him breathe while they transferred him to the catheterization lab for surgery.

The man had a near total blockage of his left anterior descending artery. Only a little blood was flowing to the left ventricle of his heart.

“They had the stint in within 25 minutes of our arrival at the door, which is awesome,” Freel said.

The patient survived and returned home six days later with no cardiac function loss.

It is rare for heart attack patients to survive after going into ventricular fibrillation, Freel explained.

“Typically, when they code, that’s it,” he said.

Freel’s colleagues nominated him for the award and VVMC formally recognized him at a ceremony on Dec. 16.

He accepts his award humbly and is quick to give credit to his equipment and the other medic.

Freel grew up in Cornville. He attended Northern Arizona University for two years where he studied computer management and information systems.

He joined the ski patrol at Arizona Snowbowl and met some firefighters while he was attending emergency medical technician certification courses.

The firefighters encouraged him to visit their department and ride along with them. He did so and enjoyed the experience enough to leave NAU to pursue a career in emergency medical services.

He began attending intermediate medical technician courses at Yavapai College.

After earning his intermediate medical technician certification, he began taking paramedic courses.

In 1996, he became a paramedic. He joined the SFD in 1997.

Freel is also a member of the SFD Technical Rescue Team. He is an experienced climber and is trained in trench rescue and handling hazardous materials.

When he is not responding to calls, Freel said he enjoys climbing, mountain biking and dirt biking.


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