Deputy Sheriffs Trevor Jensen and Aaron Ordonez received praise at last week’s Grant County Commission meeting for going above and beyond the call of duty on a very difficult call.
The call included an unusual amount of medical assistance, including an ambulance being driven by Ordoñez, which he had only done once before in his eight-year career with the division. However, providing medical assistance is not an insignificant part of law enforcement’s duties, and officials say the initiatives being taken within the department reflect this need.
According to the police report, on November 3 around 12:15 p.m., an Arenas Valley 911 caller reported an unresponsive man on her property. She said she had just sold her house, and told the 44-year-old that if he could remove some steel from her property, he could have it, she later told Ordonez.
According to the report, the woman went to a barn on the property to get some buckets, and when she returned, she found the man pinned to the door jamb of his truck and said she thought he was having a seizure. He fell to the floor, as she attempted CPR before and during calling 911. He was unresponsive, she said, and had no pulse.
The EMTs arrived first, followed by Ordoñez, who immediately called Jensen for backup.
“We needed another body to help with CPR,” Ordonez said. “At the time, an older gentleman and I were going to do CPR, while the paramedics were trying to intubate.”
Ordoñez explained that although the older man was an expert EMT, CPR was too physically demanding, even for the fittest of responders. Ordoñez, Jensen, and the responding medical staff took turns in two positions: one performing chest compressions, and the other suctioning fluid from the man’s mouth while squeezing a bag of air into his lungs.
Other interventions included Narcan and epinephrine, used to treat opioid overdose and allergic reactions, respectively. The patient did not respond to either.
After speaking with a doctor at Gila Regional Medical Center, the team was told to take the man to a hospital.
Knowing that all hands were required to continue CPR, Ordoñez jumped into the driver’s seat of the ambulance, while Jensen followed in his police car.
Ordonez knew what to do this time, he said, because he had been in a similar situation years earlier, when he was new to the force.
“Then, the medic in the back said to take slower turns,” Ordonez recalled. “The ambulance is not like any old car – there is a big box in the back with people in it.”
With this hard-won wisdom and many years of experience, Ordoñez said that while he contemplated his cargo, his focus was on the road.
“It is difficult during the day to see the emergency lights,” he explained. “Even though the lights and siren are on, many people have their radios on and aren’t paying attention in their rearview mirrors.”
Ordoñez stopped at the Gila Regional Emergency Medical Center and immediately jumped back in to help relieve his group of CPR duty. He accompanied the stretcher to the emergency room, where nurses and doctors took care of it.
Physically exhausted and short of breath, Ordonez said, after more than 45 minutes of CPR, he went straight back to work. Jensen was there to take him back to his car in the Arenas Valley.
Although it doesn’t happen infrequently, Sheriff Frank Gomez said law enforcement driving an ambulance was almost unheard of. Officers often respond to medical assistance, and in acute cases, a driver—who is also usually an EMT—is required to assist the patient.
“In the county, most emergencies are EMS,” Gomez said. “But then [a case] Cruel… Dispatch makes a decision based on protocol on whether or not to send an officer to the page.”
Ordoñez said all law enforcement officers in New Mexico are required to have basic CPR training. He estimates that about 35-40 percent of the calls he responds require some type of medical response from him, most often CPR.
He said, “It’s just so we can free up some hands.” “Anyone at the scene is there to help where they need it.”
Deputies are also trained to administer other basic treatments, such as bandages and retainers, which are included in the trauma packs that every officer now carries.
“Four or five months ago, we bought shock bags,” Gomez said. Gila Regional Director of EMS Eloy Medina conducted the training.
Ordonez said the department is also looking at offering basic EMT training. He said that while he would be interested — and could help with more situations if he had more training — it wouldn’t affect the November 3 call.
As for the praise, Ordonez said it was his first in eight years.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” he said. “But with this kind of work, you do a lot of good things, and you don’t always get recognized.”
And when he first got the call to attend a county commission meeting the day before receiving an award, Ordonez said he had no guesses as to what it was for.
Jo Lutz can be reached at [email protected]