EMS Trainers and Ambu Bag Resuscitator Headed For Education Session Save a Life

When Chris Meeks picked up an Ambu® BagTM resuscitator from his office, he didn’t know he would need it to save a life within 10 minutes.

But as Meeks, a critical care educator for Cypress Creek EMS in Houston, sprinted up the stairs of his apartment building about midnight that Sunday in September 2021 , he glanced back over his shoulder and saw a man slumped in the driver’s seat of a parked SUV.

Luckily, the driver’s side window was rolled down enough for Meeks to unlock and open the door.

He quickly realized the well-dressed businessman was not breathing and had only a weak, thready pulse. Meeks immediately suspected an opioid overdose because of the man’s pinpoint pupils and the fact that he wasn’t trying to breathe despite having a pulse.

Meeks grabbed the Ambu® SPUR® II resuscitator that he had just put in a storage tote in the bed of his truck for training the next day. He and a fellow trainer who was with him that night pulled the man onto a nearby patch of grass.

They kept the man, who looked to be in his 30s, alive until an ambulance arrived 20 minutes later.

His coworker managed the PEEP valve and respirations while Meeks held the patient’s airway open and maintained the mask seal. The PEEP valve, a spring-loaded valve that the patient exhales against, was attached to the Ambu Bag.

“We kept his brain healthy, and kept his Co2 levels at an acceptable range,” Meeks says.

Instead of using the Ambu Bag to teach his class the following day, he used it to save a life that night.

Meeks is happy he reversed his usual routine and picked up the Ambu Bag before stopping at home to grab a suitcase.

“It was divine intervention,” Meeks says. “Someone was looking out for this guy. I was lucky enough to be the tool. … If I had not intervened, he would have died.”

Making a difference

The next morning and for the two that followed, the rescue was the first thing Meeks talked about in training.

He told his students they could have all the equipment in the world, but what really counts is their understanding of basic airway management.

“The Ambu Bag is what made the difference between this patient living and dying,” he says.

The man in the SUV, in this particular case, was a businessman who recently had undergone surgery, been prescribed pain medicine, and apparently took too much. Meeks found the prescription bottle in the SUV’s cup holder.

This emergency was different from others the trained paramedic has experienced.

“It wasn’t like I was at work,” Meeks said. “ If I hadn’t had that equipment, I would have had to watch him suffocate and die. … If I had not started breathing for him, he would have gone into cardiac arrest.”

A key piece of equipment

Meeks was just three weeks into his new job at Cypress Creek when he encountered the emergency that night. He had spent 10 years before that working as a field paramedic, flight paramedic, and clinical base supervisor in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He has used plenty of bag valve mask resuscitators — called BVMs by most paramedics — in his career.

“I feel like Ambu has stayed current with the science,” he said. “I have found their products very reliable.”

He is excited about Ambu’s new SPUR® II with EtCO2, which makes it easier than ever to ventilate in an emergency. It adds a gas sampling line that connects directly to the M-port of the resuscitator to improve workflow, efficiency, and clinical performance.

“I’ve been begging for EtCO2,” he said in an interview at the 2021 EMS World Expo in Atlanta. “It is such a key piece of equipment and taking away having to think of where it is makes our job easier.”

Meeks does some of his teaching through a podcast at mindbodymedic.com, to encourage, educate, and invest in others — and exponentially grow the number of lives saved. He is grateful that he was there to help the stranger in his parking lot that night.

“It’s a sense of accomplishment and reinforcement that I’m in the right line of work and that I love what I do,” he said.