Face of Defense: Student Uses CPR to Save Man’s Life
By Sharon Holland
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
BETHESDA, Md., May 19, 2014 Their school break was drawing to a close and Army 2nd Lt. Jason Ausman and his roommates, all first-year medical students at the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences here, were looking forward to a carefree day of fun before classes resumed the next day.
Ausman, along with fellow Air Force second lieutenants Taylor Roth and Doug Morte, headed to Jessup, Maryland, for some indoor electric go-kart racing at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway.
Dick Talley, 69, had also gone with friends to Jessup from his home more than two hours away in southern Maryland for a day of Grand Prix-style go-kart racing at the speedway.
Talley and his friends arrived before the medical students and took their turns behind the wheel. After a number of laps, Talley’s go-kart came to a stop and as he stood up to get out, he suddenly felt faint and then blacked out.
Meanwhile, Ausman, Roth and Morte had arrived at the speedway, signed in, and then watched the mandatory safety video before heading to the go-kart area where the previous session’s drivers were just ending their last laps. The students watched the drivers exit their vehicles and noticed Talley collapse.
Ausman, who’d served for eight years as a paramedic, paramedic instructor and flight medic with the Lee County EMS in Fort Myers, Fla., before coming to the university, immediately rushed over to help. In the few seconds it took Ausman to reach him, Talley was lying still and had no pulse.
"They teach you that if a person is not conscious and not breathing normally to go ahead and start CPR," Ausman said. And he did just that, continuing compressions until paramedics arrived, refusing to let anyone take over.
“I have seen lots of people do CPR,” Ausman said. “I have also seen lots do poor CPR, and if there’s a chance for the victim to make it, you’ve got to keep up good perfusion.”
Once paramedics arrived, Ausman told them he believed Talley was in cardiac arrest. Although paramedics initially discounted his diagnosis, a cardiac monitor revealed that Talley displayed signs of ventricular fibrillation, a lethal rhythm that showed that his heart was not beating.
The paramedics, with help from Ausman, began administering life-saving support. A defibrillator was used to shock Talley’s heart, rescue breathing was performed and Ausman continued administering chest compressions.
After a while, Talley’s heart started to beat again. The paramedics loaded him into their ambulance and drove him to the closest hospital, 10 miles away. Ausman had no idea who the man was, where they were taking him and believed he would never know the final outcome.
Talley spent the next six days in the hospital, where he learned the full details of what had happened -- all except the identity of his rescuer.
Determined to thank the man who’d saved his life, Talley reached out to the speedway. The manager contacted dozens of registered riders, including Ausman, asking if any of them had performed CPR at the racetrack. Ausman responded and gave them permission to share his email address with Talley. Within a few days, he received an emotional message from the grateful man.
“Hello, Jason. I am so glad they were able to locate you! Needless to say, you are a very special person in my life now. I have essentially made a 100-percent recovery due to the excellent CPR you so promptly performed on me from the time my heart stopped beating,” Talley wrote.
“Considering the type of heart attack I had, the normal survival rate is about two percent for an out-of-hospital attack. Thanks to you, I am very lucky to be here today,” Talley continued in his message to Ausman. “They did install a defibrillator while I was in the hospital and I am basically cleared to continue to live my life as I was before. I must give you credit for not only saving my life, but that I am fully recovered. I do look at each day a little different now since I am living in ‘overtime.’
“The circumstances that allowed our paths to cross and your actions are as big as life itself,” Talley added. “Just to say ‘thank you’ seems insignificant for what you did for me. Thank you for life itself!”
Talley said that he was sure he would not be alive today if he had had his heart attack anywhere else.
“My friends tell me from the time I passed out until Jason was giving me CPR was about 30 seconds,” he said. “That would have been just about impossible to be in a similar situation where that could happen. I am very lucky to be alive today.”
“Given the circumstances of Mr. Talley’s cardiac arrest, including an eight-minute ‘down time’ in a non-urban setting, the odds of survival would have been less than two percent if he had not gotten bystander CPR,” said Dr. Art L. Kellermann, the dean of the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine and the author of numerous studies on out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
“I’m convinced that the speed and precision with which 2nd Lt. Ausman reacted literally saved Mr. Talley’s life,” Kellermann added.
“Although this incident occurred in public, most cardiac arrests occur in the victim’s home,” Kellerman continued. “In fact, if you learn CPR, the most likely life you will save is that of your spouse, parent or another member of your family. The wonderful thing is that you don’t have to be a medical student like 2nd Lt. Ausman, much less a doctor or nurse, to deliver lifesaving CPR. It’s easy to learn and easy to do. And as this situation proves, you may save someone’s life.”
As a measure of his gratitude, Talley offered to contribute to Ausman’s medical education fund. Ausman, like all USU students, does not pay tuition. He declined Talley’s offer.
“I told him I don’t have any debt from school and I would never take anything from him for helping him out,” Ausman said. “When I was in high school, I saw a man at the beach wash up on shore unconscious but I didn’t know what to do at the time to help him. I began teaching CPR classes and working in health care so that I would never experience that hopeless feeling again if presented with a similar situation. Luckily, when Mr. Talley collapsed in front of me, this time I knew exactly what to do."
Talley said he’s relishing his second chance at life.
“I am currently in cardiac rehab three times a week for the next 12 weeks and I am working out in the gym two times a week,” he said. “My perspective and priorities have changed somewhat since it happened. I am more focused on enjoying life rather than on my financial future and doing ‘business.’ I expect to start racing on Saturday nights again soon and plan on getting my boat ready to sail to the islands for the winter this fall.”