Mt. Angel officer recognized for saving life
Police officer George Lopez joined the Mount Angel Police Department in April, and for one community member, that hire was a life-saving decision.
Lopez was recently honored with the Lifesaving Award at the 50th annual Oregon Peace Officers Association awards banquet on Nov. 15, recognizing the officer for resuscitating a 21-year old resident who was overdosing on prescription medication.
The award came three months after an emergency call when Lopez was dispatched to the home of a woman whose son was unconscious and not breathing after attempting to take his own life by overdosing on prescription medication.
When Lopez arrived, he quickly administered a dose of Narcan, also known as Naloxone, a nasal spray that is used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. The man briefly regained consciousness before passing out, and this time his heart had stopped. Lopez gave a second dose of Narcan and began CPR, which revived the man once again, bringing a pulse and breath back, though he remained unconscious.
"Officer Lopez jumped right in, and was doing high-performance CPR, and that enabled the Narcan to actually circulate," Mount Angel Police Chief Mark Daniel said. "It...enabled Officer Lopez to continue the circulation of oxygenated blood in his system, which kept him alive."
The man became unresponsive a third time, prompting Lopez to prepare the Automated External Defibrillator kept in his car for use until paramedics arrived and took over resuscitation. Had Lopez been unable to respond to the emergency call as quickly as he had, Daniel stated that the outcome could have been deadly.
"I think if he hadn't intervened had he did, the circumstances would have been substantially different," he said.
Fortunately, the Mount Angel Police Department has been outfitting itself for these types of medical emergencies as opioid overdoses have become more prevalent over the past decade. When Daniel joined the MAPD, he made it a priority to equip every vehicle with Narcan and AEDs to provide his officers with the life-saving tools necessary for emergency situations when every second counts.
"In small communities like this, certainly we've got an ambulance that's here sometimes. We've got a volunteer fire department, that's wonderful," Daniel said. "But our officers are able to respond to situations like this at a moment's notice."
The MAPD was able to apply for a grant through the Marion County Health Department to obtain enough Narcan to equip every vehicle with several life-saving doses. At the same time, Daniel made sure every vehicle in the department's fleet also had an AED, in addition to keeping a defibrillator at the office as well.
"No matter where an officer goes, we've got an AED and Narcan, and we're able to respond," Daniel said.
As a result, Lopez was fully equipped to intervene at a moment's notice and save a life, first through the use of Narcan, and following with CPR to circulate the medication and bring a pulse back.
"We're fortunate here that's the first time we've had to use it," Daniel said. "(Lopez) was able to respond very quickly, he had the tools that he had been equipped with and the right amount of training, could ask the questions, figure out what he needed to do, and it had an outstanding response."
The awards banquet where Lopez was honored was held at Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde, with 600 attendees and other award winners present. The Mount Angel Police Department will be present at next year's 51st event as well. Not long after Lopez's actions, the department's most recent hire, who had been with the MAPD for less than a month, responded to another cardiac arrest situation and performed similar life-saving measures.
"He jumped right in, knowing how to do high-performance CPR," Daniel said. "In a short period of time, he was able to bring the person back and get the pulse started, and it once again was a success. The person survived."
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