Sheriff’s Deputies Trevor Jensen and Aaron Ordoñez received kudos at last week’s Grant County Commission meeting for going above and beyond the call of duty in a particularly difficult appeal.
The call involved an unusual amount of medical assistance, including Ordoñez driving an ambulance, something he had only done once before during his eight-year career with the department. Offering medical assistance, however, is not an insignificant part of law enforcement duties, and officials say initiatives are being taken within the department that reflect this need.
According to a police report, on Nov. 3 at approximately 12:15 p.m., a 911 caller in Arenas Valley reported an unconscious male found on his property. She said she had just sold her house and told the 44-year-old that if he could get steel off his property he could have it, she said later in Ordonez.
According to the report, the woman went to a barn on the property to get buckets, and when she returned she found the man hanging from the door jamb of her truck and she said she thought that he was having a fit. He fell to the ground, where she attempted to administer CPR before and while she called 911. She said he was unresponsive and had no pulse.
The paramedics arrived first, followed by Ordoñez, who immediately called Jensen for backup.
“We needed another agency to help with CPR,” Ordoñez said. “At the time, it was just me and an older man performing CPR, while paramedics tried to intubate.”
Ordoñez explained that while the older gentleman was an experienced paramedic, CPR is very physically demanding, even for the fittest responder. Ordoñez, Jensen and responding medical personnel took turns in two positions: one performing chest compressions, the other sucking fluid from the man’s mouth while pressing an air sac into his lungs.
Other interventions included Narcan and epinephrine, used to treat opioid overdoses and allergic reactions, respectively. The patient did not respond to either.
After speaking with a doctor at Gila Regional Medical Center, the team was ordered to transport the man to hospital.
Knowing that all hands were needed to continue CPR, Ordoñez jumped into the driver’s seat of the ambulance, while Jensen followed in his own police vehicle.
Ordoñez knew what to do this time, he said, because he had been thrust into a similar situation years ago when he was brand new to the force.
“Afterwards, the paramedic in the back said to take the corners more slowly,” Ordoñez recalled. “The ambulance is not like any old car – there is a big box in the back with people in it.”
With that hard-earned wisdom and additional years of experience, Ordoñez said that while he considered his cargo, his focus was on the road.
“During the day, it’s harder to see the emergency lights,” he explained. “Even though the lights and sirens are on, a lot of people have their radios on and aren’t paying attention in their mirrors.”
Ordoñez stopped at the Gila Regional Medical Center emergency bay and immediately jumped again to help relieve his cohort on CPR duty. He accompanied the stretcher to the emergency room, where nurses and doctors took over.
Physically tired and out of breath after more than 45 minutes of CPR, Ordoñez said he immediately returned to work. Jensen was there to drive him back to his vehicle in Arenas Valley.
Although it doesn’t happen frequently, Sheriff Frank Gomez said law enforcement officers driving an ambulance were not unheard of. Officers often respond with medical assistance, and in acute cases the driver – who is also usually a paramedic – is needed to help the patient.
“In the county, most emergencies are EMS,” Gomez said. “But if [a case] is serious… The dispatcher makes a decision based on protocol on whether to call an officer.
Ordoñez said all law enforcement officers in New Mexico must undergo basic CPR training. He estimates that about 35-40% of the calls he answers require medical intervention on his part, most often CPR.
“It’s just so we can free up some hands,” he said. “Everyone on site is there to help where needed.”
Deputies are also trained to administer other basic treatments, such as bandages and tourniquets, which are included in the trauma kits every officer now carries.
“Four or five months ago we bought some trauma bags,” Gomez said. Gila Regional “EMS Director Eloy Medina did the training.”
Ordoñez said the department also plans to offer basic EMT training. He said that while he would be interested — and could help in more situations if he had more training — it wouldn’t have impacted the Nov. 3 call.
As for the commendation, Ordoñez said it was his first in eight years.
“It’s kind of nice to be recognized,” he said. “But with this kind of work, you do a lot of good things, and you’re not always going to be recognized.”
And when he first got the call to be at a county commission meeting the day before to receive an award, Ordoñez said he had no idea what it was for.
Jo Lutz can be contacted at [email protected]
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