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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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VA Employees Save Man's Life After Car Crash

October 1, 2003

VA Employees Save Man's Life After Car Crash

VA research physicians use their training and new equipment to stabilize victim.

Released: 2003/10/01

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Gathered again at the scene of the accident, Paul Haidet, M.D., M.P.H., Rebecca Beyth, M.D., M.S., Hashem El-Serag, M.D., M.P.H., and Carol Ashton, M.D., M.P.H. (left to right) discuss how they used the Automated External Defibrillator to stabilize a car accident victim. The orange net fence behind the group temporarily replaces the two sections of iron fence taken out by the accident.

photo by Bobbi D. Gruner, Public Affairs Officer

HOUSTON, TX - On a beautiful, sunny Monday in September, Houston VA Medical Center (HVAMC) research physicians, Carol Ashton, M.D., M.P.H., Rebecca Beyth, M.D., M.S., Hashem El-Serag, M.D., M.P.H., and Paul Haidet, M.D., M.P.H. were at the right place at the right time when they witnessed an elderly man crashing his car into a nearby fence.

The driver, who lost consciousness while driving his car on a busy four-lane street near the HVAMC, crossed the median as well as the two opposite lanes of traffic and crashed head-on into a stone pillar holding up two sections of iron fence. Fortunately for the driver, the crash occurred just outside the VA's Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies (HCQCUS).

Although the Center's primary focus is research, it employs physician researchers who have medical backgrounds and medical degrees. HCQCUS is one of 11 VA Health Services Research and Development Centers of Excellence. Established in 1990, the Houston Center systematically examines the impact of the organization, management, and financing of health care services on the delivery, quality, cost, utilization, and outcomes of care.

The four alarmed VA researchers raced over to the site of the crash and pried open the car doors. It was immediately obvious the driver was unconscious and had no pulse. The Center recently installed an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and the device was quickly brought to the scene. The driver was successfully resuscitated and an ambulance arrived shortly thereafter to transport him to a nearby hospital.

"I was so glad I just had taken the Houston VA Medical Center's Healthcare Provider Refresher Course, especially with the addition of the portable AED. When we assessed for a pulse and breathing again and he still didn't have anything, I remembered that HCQCUS had just gotten a portable AED unit installed in our building. With one shock, he came back and was stabilized until an EMS unit arrived. I believe the AED saved his life. I believe having just had the Healthcare Provider Refresher Course enabled me to do what needed to be done automatically," said Beyth.

All HVAMC physicians are required to attend the Healthcare Provider Refresher Course at least every two years. "This class offers detailed Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training for use on adults, children, and infants. The class also includes hands-on instruction on the appropriate use of the AED," said Joycelyn Westbrooks, HVAMC Education Service Line clinical educator. "This accident is definitely a great example of the right training at the right time for the right situation."

The new motto for VA research is "Today's VA Research Leading Tomorrow's Health Care." Thanks to the heroic efforts of these four VA physician researchers, this rescued man will now have a second chance at his tomorrow.

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Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs

04/21/04 08:25