The FDNY nominated the paramedics for the Daily News Hometown Heroes award for saving the unconscious man from lethal CO exposure
Thomas Tracy – New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Imagine having to rush down a steep flight of stairs into a dingy and unfamiliar basement of a building to rescue an unconscious man no one could pull out of harm’s way.
Then imagine an invisible killer lurking nearby, waiting for you to take your next breath.
That’s the harrowing situation four city paramedics ran into last month when they rescued a man felled by lethally high carbon monoxide fumes in the basement of a Lower East Side deli.
For their quick action and by-the-book response, the FDNY has nominated EMS Paramedics Philip Jugenheimer, James Carlson, Joshua Rodriguez and Niall O’Shaughnessy for Daily News Hometown Heroes awards.
Jugenheimer and Carlson were the first to respond to the call about an unconscious person at at the Optimum Gourmet Deli on Broome St. at about 7:30 a.m. Dec. 10.
When they arrived, there were three workers complaining about feeling dizzy. A fourth was in the basement, passed out.
At the same time, the paramedics’ portable carbon monoxide detectors — a device always attached to their uniforms — began beeping rapidly, indicating high concentrations of the colorless, odorless gas.
Carlson and Jugenheimer immediately evacuated the deli and called for additional help. That promptly brought Rodriguez and O’Shaughnessy, city paramedics who have special training in responding to hazardous situations, to the potentially deadly scene.
“When we responded, (Carlson and Jugenheimer) were outside with a few patients already and they had confirmed that another patient was in the basement,” Rodriguez said. “At the time our CO meters were reading very high levels, so every second really counts.”
The two put on their protective equipment and breathing gear and stepped down the steep basement staircase. After a few minutes, they found the victim lying on the ground by a faulty boiler belching out the CO gas.
The area was too narrow for them to lay out a stretcher, so the two first responders had to pick up their victim and carry him up the stairs.
“With the shelving and everything around him, he was difficult to access,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We just carried him by his arms and legs.”
As they lumbered up the stairs, the two rescuers were mindful not to lose the seal on their breathing masks, said O’Shaughnessy. As they got closer to the boiler their meters were reading that there was a lethal level of carbon monoxide in the air.
“At those levels, 50% of people exposed to carbon monoxide die within 30 minutes,” O’Shaughnessy said. “If the mask came off us, we would be in dire straits. We would have been in trouble.”
The two managed to carry their patient out of the basement and onto the sidewalk, where he was rushed to New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center. He’s currently on the mend, his fellow workers said.
“He was home the next day,” one deli worker who wished not to be named told The News Saturday.
FDNY Lt. Bruce Hydock of EMS Station 4 said the operation went off without a hitch.
“Paramedics Jugenheimer and Carlson did the right thing by having situational awareness, realizing the severity of the situation, calling for backup, and evacuating the deli,” Hydock said. “This operation went perfectly because of the teamwork and communication that was present. Their training kicked in and everyone knew what they needed to do.”
While happy that he could save a life, neither O’Shaughnessy nor his fellow team members consider themselves heroes.
“We’re just glad we got the guy out,” he said.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 2,244 deaths nationwide were attributed to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning between 2010 and 2015. The highest number of deaths occur during the winter months.
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