Firies save one of their own
SAVING lives is generally accepted as par for the course for your average firefighter, but when you walk into the office to find one of your own men down, it's a different kettle of fish.
A small crew of firefighters at Ripley station got the shock of their lives when they realised that fit and healthy father of two, Travis McDowell, had suffered cardiac arrest and died right in front of them.
There is still no logical explanation for why the 41-year-old experienced firie suddenly slouched at his computer on the afternoon of December 7 last year.
What is certain is that the immediate actions of six of his firefighting brethren rescued a young family from tragedy.
"I could look at it as the unluckiest day of my life, but also the luckiest day of my life," Mr McDowell said.
"Only 9% of people who suffer cardiac arrest survive.
"They are a fabulous crew here and I cannot thank them enough."
Mr McDowell and his workmates had just returned from swift water rescue training at Leichhardt pool on the day of the cardiac arrest.
The firefighter went to his computer to enter the details of the training into the system, when he suddenly collapsed on his desk.
Nobody knows exactly how long he was slouched over until firefighter Josh Holden walked in to find him there.
Mr Holden yelled for help and the crew got to work, with a few beginning CPR while another got on the phone to the ambulance.
Des Sardie, Brad Neuendorf, Brian Ranse, Michael Stephenson and Michael McCoy were all involved in the rescue, but it was a key piece of equipment that has been credited for giving Mr McDowell his life back.
"The defibrillator saved his life," Mr Sardie said, "we could have kept pumping his chest until the cows came home but he still would have been dead.
"Watching him take that first breath after we used the defibrillator was like watching a child being born.
"It was like we'd won the lotto that day.
"We don't do high fives around here but I can tell you that we did do hugs that day.
"I can't tell you how good it is to see Trav back with his lovely wife and children, and I hope nothing like this ever happens to one of our own again."
Mr McDowell said he'd undergone extensive testing since the incident but that doctors could not find a fault with his heart.
"I was clinically dead and I was just lucky that Josh found me at my desk," he said.
"People can confuse heart attack with cardiac arrest, but my heart is fine. There seems to have been some problem with the electrics rather than the mechanics of the heart."
Mr McDowell has been back on light duties with the QFES for the last six weeks and is eventually hoping to return to full duties.
The six Ipswich firefighters that successfully brought Mr McDowell back to life have been rewarded with the Assistant Commissioner's Commendation for Outstanding Performance of Duty.
Asst Commissioner Neil Reid presented the firefighters with the awards at Ripley station yesterday.