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John Cerda uses his belt to stanch bleeding after Costco co-worker was run over by a forklift.

John Cerda, a forklift driver at Costco in Clackamas, knew that no one was joking around when he heard persistent yells of "help, help" as crews moved pallet deliveries of merchandise at 3 a.m.

"There was such a force behind those screams that it was clear someone needed help for real," Cerda said.COURTESY PHOTO: CLACKAMAS FIRE - John Cerda works two jobs in Clackamas County, forklift driving at Costco and as a paid on-call Gladstone lieutenant firefighter.

Cerda rushed over to see his 54-year-old co-worker Jeremy Bottler's foot pinned under a forklift's back wheel. Costco employee Amy Boden held Bottler, reassuring him that "it's OK to scream" and that he should "let it out."

Cerda's training as an emergency medical technician kicked in, since his second job is being on-call as a paid Gladstone lieutenant firefighter. He noticed that Bottler's leg was "degloved" from his ankle to his knee, meaning that his skin had been completely peeled off by the wheel's impact.

"Based on the open wound, it crossed my mind immediately to get a tourniquet on him," Cerda said.

Cerda didn't have a medical-grade tourniquet, so he immediately removed his own belt and cinched it around Bottler's leg to slow down the bleeding before paramedics arrived. Cerda's quick thinking during the Nov. 14 incident likely prevented a much worse outcome, so Clackamas Fire presented him a lifesaving award on March 21.

Cerda was humbled by the presentation of the award, but he wanted his co-workers to share in the recognition.

"It's nice to be blessed with the opportunity to have the strength and courage to do something that makes a difference, but everyone who participated was a hero," he said. "They went above and beyond, because I asked them to do something they're not trained to do."

By the time Cerda had applied his makeshift tourniquet, 911 had been called. While they waited during the few minutes for paramedics to arrive, the next step was to lift the forklift directly off of Bottler's leg. Ben Silverman coordinated forklift operators Mark Echroth and Hughey Horrath to come in at different angles from opposite sides, so they were able perform the lift.

"As soon as he was cleared, Amy and I slid him out," Cerda said. "We got it done a lot quicker than I thought we would get it done. The fire department got there very quickly, but it seemed like a lot longer than it was. I knew to ask Jeremy a lot of medical questions so that he would not pass out from the pain, and so that we would have his medical background for the paramedics."

Cerda assisted the Clackamas Fire paramedics with switching from his belt to a real tourniquet. Firefighters on duty said that Bottler's hemorrhage had been life-threatening. Paramedic crews rapidly performed an assessment, provided additional lifesaving interventions and readied the patient for immediate transport to Oregon Health & Science University's trauma center.

Clackamas Fire officials said the patient was fortunate to have a "calm, cool and collected" co-worker at his side that day, and Cerda's actions ensured the best possible outcome in the traumatic situation.

"It certainly could have been much different had it not been for the quick actions of Mr. Cerda," Public Affairs Battalion Chief Brandon Paxton told the Clackamas Fire Board. "Mr. Cerda, thank you so much for taking the steps to save a life; it's an extension of who you are, obviously, and how you serve with the city of Gladstone, but we very much appreciate your contribution to the community."

A Gladstone resident, Cerda has received the Clackamas Fire lifesaving award before, in recognition of his efforts in 2015, when he helped administer CPR to someone at the Costco who was having a cardiac arrest.

Cerda said he is praying for Bottler's continued recovery after Bottler was discharged from the hospital after 80 days.


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