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Whitney: Redmond’s Triple Crown ‘superhero’

Redmond firefighter and paramedic Jim Whitney is only the second person to receive the Triple Crown award for successfully resuscitating three patients in one month. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Redmond firefighter and paramedic Jim Whitney is only the second person to receive the Triple Crown award for successfully resuscitating three patients in one month.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

When a soccer or hockey player scores three goals in one game, it’s called a hat trick; when a member of the King County Medic One/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division saves three lives in one month, it’s called a Triple Crown.

On Feb. 18, Redmond Fire Department (RFD) firefighter and paramedic Jim Whitney was recognized for achieving such a feat in October 2015 and was honored with the Triple Crown award. The award was presented by Dr. Tom Rea, program medical director of King County Medic One EMS, and Jim Fogarty, King County EMS division director, during ceremonies at Redmond Fire Station 17.

“Jim is a superhero,” said Mike Hilley, acting medical services administrator for RFD.

Whitney said while he is proud of the achievement and honor, he stresses that these successful saves were a team effort and involved “so much more than (him).”

“I just happened to be in the right place,” he said.

King County EMS established the Triple Crown award to recognize the milestone of three cardiac arrests saves during a one-month period. While this is a team activity, a City of Redmond press release states that certain members of the team are responsible for leading to these successes and in this case, Whitney was the lead paramedic for all three of these cases.

Whitney is the second recipient of the award in King County, which has the highest resuscitation rate in the United States at 54 percent, according to the release. The award will stay with Whitney at the RFD until this milestone is achieved again by a paramedic in King County.

Whitney said prior to receiving the award, he had only heard about the Triple Crown when he saw on social media a few years ago that a paramedic from Bellevue received it. So he was surprised when he learned he would be receiving the honor.

Although the Triple Crown recognizes three successful resuscitations within a 30-day period, Whitney’s cases happened in the span of six days.

Whitney said the benchmark for a successful save is when the patient is able to walk out of the hospital and return to their life before they got sick and this is what the Triple Crown is based on, as well.

The first call came from the Redmond Transit Center in downtown at a bus stop.

Whitney said a man in his mid-60s had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. When this happened, other commuters at the transit station called 911 and started performing CPR on the man, beginning the chain of survival. Whitney said without these first steps of early recognition, 911 and CPR, their ability to save an individual becomes more limited.

“Citizen CPR is huge,” he said.

Whitney described this call as a fairly short resuscitation, lasting about 10-15 minutes, before the patient was transported to EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland.

The second call came from Bothell while Whitney was working out of Kirkland. It happened at an office building where an employee in his mid-50s collapsed while at work. His coworkers called 911 and performed CPR on him until responders could arrive. Whitney said they worked on the patient for about an hour and 15 minutes before taking him to the hospital. The patient’s care included CPR as well as being shocked by an automated external defibrillator (AED).

The final call came from a residence on the border of Kirkland and Woodinville. Whitney, who was working out of Kirkland again at the time, described the case as a poly drug overdose that caused a respiratory arrest, which led to a cardiac arrest.

Whitney explained that King County EMS has a regional approach, with the nearest fire station — with a basic life support (BLS) team — responding to the call to stabilize the scene. After that, if the case calls for it, an advanced life support (ALS) team of paramedics like Whitney will respond. Whitney said the difference between BLS and ALS responders is that the ALS teams can administer medication and other more advanced treatments. Whenever an ALS team responds to a call, there is an officer and a skills provider. Whitney said the officer is the one who makes the calls on how to treat the patient while the skills provider is the one to administer the treatments. These roles rotate with each call the team of two responds to.

Whitney said he was the officer for the calls in Redmond and Bothell and the skills provider for the third call.

Whitney said that the fire station-to-ALS unit ratio is about 10-to-1, adding that they cover all of King County.

“We can’t do our job without the BLS guys there,” Whitney said, again emphasizing the importance of team effort in the Medic One system. “The system is the value.”

On any given cardiac arrest call, he said there are at least seven people responding to a call, which includes both the BLS and ALS teams. And everyone has a role. These include performing CPR, keeping track of time to rotate CPR performers so nobody gets tired, administering medicine and even scene security if necessary.

This team effort is something firefighters and paramedics throughout King County practice on a regular basis. Once a quarter, teams run drills to practice their responses to medical calls and discuss different procedures and treatments they could perform and provide to help patients. Whitney and others participated in one of these training sessions on Monday at RRD’s Station 17.

Hilley said sometimes the drills are hypothetical emergencies and sometimes they are medical emergencies RFD has actually responded to.

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