Thursday, May 18, 2017 | 10:28 a.m.
Dionne Bolderoff, a registered nurse at Southwest Medical, has been working in urgent care for nearly 14 years, currently at SMA’s Siena Health Care Center location. While patients benefit from Dionne’s personal attention and professional expertise at the health care center, she recently had the opportunity to put her medicals skills to work far outside the care center walls.
Dionne and her husband Bill enjoy off-road races across the Southwest, and Bill helps race teams by operating a “chase truck” to help broken down vehicles. These races include all types of vehicles — motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility task vehicles (UTVs) and “trophy trucks” (reinforced suspension systems and high-power engines intended for desert racing only that are not street legal).
Dionne and her husband became involved through an experience Bill had. At one race, there was a bad fire in a rollover accident. Bill was nearby and he helped save someone in respiratory distress with the help of a nurse. Inspired, he decided to train as an emergency medical technician, where he was introduced to the director of Motorsports Safety Solutions, which provides off-road racing medical and safety support. Dionne and Bill have been volunteering with the group for several years.
Typically, their role is to provide treatment for any injury during the race. They also help rollover vehicles that crash (towing them off the track so that others don’t hit them). Many of these races are far from population centers (and available medical services), so they have to be prepared for anything. Major trauma accidents usually require them to stabilize the person and call a helicopter to pick them up and fly them to the closest major hospital. Most of the time, they encounter trauma injuries, but they always carry an AED because a major blow to the chest can cause a heart dysrhythmia.
They’ve been to races all over Nevada, including in Caliente, Tonopah and Reno. They have also served at races in San Jacinto, California and recently in Parker, Arizona for the Blue Water Challenge.
It was at this race in Parker where Dionne and Bill encountered a man suffering a cardiac event.
“My husband and I had just finished taking a break for lunch when we decided to go drive over to the finish line area to see if anything was going on,” Dionne said. “We were just turning the corner when we saw a group of people standing over someone on the ground. Just then a call came over the radio — ‘We need medical!’”
Dionne and Bill turned on their lights and siren and pulled up next to the crowd. They saw someone had begun doing chest compressions.
“My husband to grab the AED as I jumped out of the truck,” she said, recalling that the man on the ground was not breathing and had no pulse.
She asked the bystanders what had happened and immediately the person doing compressions got up and stepped back. Dionne instructed the person giving mouth to mouth to stop so she could take over compressions.
“While I was giving compressions, Bill cut off the man’s shirt and applied the AED pads,” she said.
The AED began its analysis and advised delivery of a shock. They delivered the shock and resumed compressions.
“I was becoming fatigued, so Bill took over compressions,” she said. “At that point, two of our other teammates arrived with oxygen and IV supplies.”
Bill started getting some resistance when doing compressions because the patient was returning to consciousness. They began the IV fluids and gave him oxygen until he came around. “His eyes opened and he began talking. We were all in shock,” she said.
The ambulance arrived and the medics did not believe the man was in full cardiac arrest, so she said “they loaded him in the ambulance and he was joking and telling them stories before they transported him to the hospital.”
They learned later that the man was visiting from Montana.
“He was here in Pahrump for a race a short time ago and my husband got to meet him in person,” Dionne said. “He’s doing well after having three stents placed when he was flown to Lake Havasu Hospital after our first encounter.”
The man had already raced in two race classes that day and was getting ready to race again when his heart went into ventricular fibrillation.
Dionne summed up the experience by saying “I’m so grateful we were in the right place at the right time.”