At approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 11, a 52-year-old woman went into cardiac arrest while driving south on I-271 in the contraflow lane. Her vehicle came to a stop near the Rockside Road exit, causing a traffic backup on the narrow contraflow lane that is lined with concrete construction barriers.
A bystander got the attention of Sgt. Cameron Reed of the Oakwood Village Police Department who was providing traffic control for the construction nearby. Sgt. Reed arrived to find the woman unconscious and not breathing and began CPR.
Soon after, Hudson Paramedic Eric Pohl and EMT Diana McMurtrey were returning from University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center on I-271 southbound. Bystanders stuck in backed-up traffic began frantically waving down the Hudson ambulance. Pohl and McMurtrey stopped, but the ambulance was on the opposite side of the regular southbound lanes. Lugging their equipment, they ran across the 60+ mile-per-hour traffic and jumped over the concrete construction barrier to render aid.
Pohl took over CPR from Sgt. Reed. The concrete lane made it difficult to get a radio signal out to call for additional help. To care for the patient, the team needed more equipment. With the speeding traffic, it was impossible to carry the patient to the Hudson ambulance, so EMT McMurtrey scaled the concrete wall, ran back across the traffic to the ambulance where she called for help and gathered more equipment. One piece of equipment she grabbed was the new Lucas device the City recently received through a donation from Rotary of Hudson and EMS Outreach.
After running across traffic and climbing the wall again, McMurtrey and Pohl used the Lucas 2 which automatically performs CPR on a patient. This allowed Pohl to start an IV and give life-saving medication while oxygen was being administered. After more than 20 minutes, the patient miraculously started breathing on her own and tried to sit up.
Hudson is grateful to the many individuals and departments who came together to help with this incident, including Sgt. Reed, a passerby who was a nurse, the crew from Kokosing Construction, and the Bedford Heights and Warrensville Heights Fire Departments that arrived on scene. Both Fire Departments had difficulty reaching the scene due to the traffic backup and the inaccessibility of the contraflow lane.
Kokosing Construction crew (Kaleb Tobien, Brock Burgett, Mike Kern, Mike Medves, and Kenny Wolf) were nearby working on the Ohio Department of Transportation road project and assisted the Hudson EMS crew with moving equipment across the highway, providing traffic control on scene, and even used their large equipment to move the construction barriers to allow the Warrensville Heights ambulance to enter and return through the closed Rockside Road exit ramp.
The patient was transported to University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center and is doing well.
“I’ve been answering EMS calls for a while,” said Hudson Paramedic Eric Pohl, “I’ve never been in a situation where there was so much community effort involved. I’d say I need a certain piece of equipment, and someone I didn’t even know would jump up and get whatever I needed. It was an amazing experience.”
“Everyone pulled together,” said Diana McMurtrey, Hudson EMT. “The construction workers were wonderful. They directed traffic to make sure I could get across the highway, and they helped bring our equipment to the scene. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
“It was an example of how people immediately offered to help, doing things that were way outside their normal job responsibilities,” said Jerry Varnes, Hudson Fire/EMS Chief. “I’m proud of Eric Pohl and Diana McMurtrey for going above and beyond to save a life. Our EMS crew happened to be in the right place at the right time, and with the help of individuals and other agencies, it had a good outcome. I spoke with the patient at the hospital and she was thankful for everyone who pitched in to help.”
(left to right) Hudson Paramedic Eric Pohl and EMT Diana McMurtrey who stopped on I-271 on Saturday to help save a life.