At Denver International Airport’s (DEN) South Checkpoint, two simultaneous, serious medical emergencies gave officers an additional challenge beyond the already eventful 30,00 passenger throughput they’re used to processing every day.
Officers were alerted by passengers in the checkpoint queue that a passenger had fallen and needed help.
When acting TSA Manager Skylar Cook and nationally deployed Supervisory TSA Officer (STSO) Calvin Arndt arrived, they found TSA Officer Eric Ferrone kneeling over the passenger who was shaking, turning pale and becoming incoherent.
“The STSO in charge of the floor that day called in the medical emergency,” remembered Arndt.
A paramedic arrived and after a quick check, started chest compressions on the passenger who was in cardiac arrest. He asked Arndt to take over compressions so he could set up an AED and take other vitals.
While STSO Jenifer Lackey diverted passengers to an alternate route, Cook and Arndt took turns performing compressions for the next 20 to 25 minutes, while Ferrone calmly reassured the family.
“I never worked with STSO Arndt before but was gratified by the instant teamwork,” said Cook remembering the rhythm they fell into.
“The AED was used twice, both times unsuccessfully,” said Arndt.
Fire department personnel arrived, and just as the officers began debriefing them, a call came over the radio reporting another passenger was down at a nearby security lane.
While Cook stayed with the passenger and first responders who ultimately revived the passenger, Arndt proceeded to the new medical alert.
At lane 11, Arndt found Officer Angelo Demaio on the ground speaking with a passenger.
“The passenger was in extreme pain and was having trouble telling us what happened,” said Arndt.
Demaio and Arndt were able to help the passenger adjust his position to alleviate his pain after discovering the passenger’s artificial hip had become dislocated. They worked together to keep the passenger immobile and responsive.
A paramedic arrived at the second scene and asked the officers to continue helping because the first emergency was still active and additional first responders would be delayed.
The paramedic started an IV with medication and handed Arndt the IV bag while Demaio held the passenger’s arm steady to keep the IV needle in place. A few minutes later a second fire department team along with an ambulance team arrived.
Thanks to the prompt response of TSA officers and medical personnel, both passengers left the South Checkpoint in stable condition and were transported to the hospital in the same ambulance.
While it was unusual having two medical emergencies occur at the same time, saving lives is not new to Cook and other DEN officers. Earlier this year, Cook helped save the life of passenger John Spinelli when Spinelli collapsed at the checkpoint. Doctor’s credited DEN officers with saving his life.
Cook has prior EMT experience as a volunteer firefighter for the Frank Town Colorado fire department. Arndt has prior emergency medical experience as a former law enforcement officer, and Demaio has prior medical experience in health care as a former EMT.
“I’m proud that our workforce is focused and committed to public service,” said FSD Larry Nau. “These back-to-back events required a calm, measured approach. As a result of the officers’ training inside and outside of TSA, they were able to calmly approach these emergencies and escalate their performance as exceptional public servants.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA’s Strategic Communications & Public Affairs