BYU students train and prepare to save lives

BYU EMTs train on other students in staged scenarios like this one, where a cardboard compactor machine 'blew up' and injured some students. Photo by Natalie Stoker
BYU EMTs train on other students in staged scenarios like this one, where a cardboard compactor machine ‘blew up’ and injured some students.
(Photo by Natalie Stoker)

David Moody, a worker at BYU’s Culinary Support Center, woke up in a hospital on the eve of Oct. 24th, unsure of why or how he got there. He had no recollection of the ambulance ride, his collapse to the floor or the nine minutes of CPR performed on him.

Moody has a heart defect that suddenly caused his heart to start beating at 220 beats per minute while he was at work. His heart became unable to actually pump blood through his body, causing him to lose consciousness and stop breathing.

“I basically died,” Moody said.

BYU EMTs said it is somewhat uncommon for someone to revive after such a long time without being able to breathe, but Moody’s chances of survival would have been even slimmer if he was not called in to work that day.

With his wife gone at work, Moody likely would have been alone at his house at the time that his heart started failing, but when he collapsed at work, his co-workers were able to act quickly and help save his life. When Moody collapsed, one fellow employee immediately called 911 while another employee, a nursing student, started CPR.

“I thought it was pretty tremendous that the … employees had presence of mind to get help and initiate CPR,” said Wade Raab, the BYU police officer who arrived at the scene.

EMTs arrived with the police to relieve the employees who were administering CPR. All BYU EMTs are volunteers, but their training and desire to help others keep them cool in high-risk situations like Moody’s collapse.

“That was one of my first major 911 calls,” said John Ehlen, one of the EMTs who helped revive Moody. Ehlen has been an EMT since 2012 and is currently studying neuroscience, although he intends to go on to study medicine.

“I was really amazed at not having an adrenaline rush,” Ehlen said. “I wasn’t scared or anything; I just saw what needed to be done. I just went into EMT mode.”

EMTs take a 120-hour course, learn to administer a handful of drugs, and become state certified before applying to BYU EMS. BYU expects all EMTs to work about 10–12 hours a week, answering to all emergency calls on campus and filling the downtime with more training and emergency-simulated exercises.

Many BYU EMTs are students who are using the experience and the hours to fulfill requirements for medical school, but not all of them pursue medicine after graduating at BYU.

“We have some people that are just genuinely interested to help,” said Sam McKnight, EMS director at BYU. McKnight himself studied aviation science, and many other EMTs have various backgrounds and interests.

“Ten to 15 percent don’t pursue medicine specifically,” McNight said. One former BYU EMT, a mechanical engineer major who went on to graduate school at the University of Texas, wanted to develop a better backboard — the hard board that straps patients down and allows them to be stably transported.

Although there may be myriad of reasons why students choose to become volunteer EMTs at BYU, they are all guided by the same principle of helping other people.

“I love being able to step in and make a difference in people’s lives in an emergency,” Ehlen said. “If they have to call 911 they’re at one of the lowest points in their lives.”

On Oct. 24 the curtains had practically closed all the way on David Moody’s life, but prepared individuals and EMTs drew them back, and they will keep doing so in future emergencies as they continue to do their job — saving lives.

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