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posted: 7/10/2014 5:30 AM

Elgin first-responders honored for making organ donation possible

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Members of Elgin's police and fire departments were recognized Wednesday for their roles in attempting to revive a woman who went into cardiac arrest in May.

Janet Sosa, 59, never regained consciousness and died June 4 at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Elgin; her family decided to take her off life support and donate her organs, which in turn helped save other lives, said Elgin police detective Heather Robinson, chairwoman of the police awards committee.

Public safety communications supervisor Dave Larson and police officers Michael McCarthy, an eight-year veteran of the department, and James Bailey, who was hired in March, received lifesaving awards at the Elgin City Council meeting Wednesday.

Responding firefighters got company awards.

Sosa's daughter and son-in-law called 911 about 4:40 p.m. May 31 saying Sosa was unconscious in the living room of her Villa Street apartment in Elgin.

Larson gave them instructions about how to administer CPR, which then was taken over in turns by both police officers and then firefighters upon arrival.

Sosa had a return of spontaneous circulation nine minutes later, after intubation and CPR, firefighter/paramedic Chris Kennedy said.

From Sosa's family members to the 911 supervisor and the police officers, everyone played a crucial role, Kennedy said.

"All the intubations and the fancy things we do, all that helps, but without good CPR that is basically uninterrupted, your survival rates go way down," he said.

Donation of vital organs, such as the heart, generally is possible only when someone dies in a hospital, Kennedy explained.

"To be able to accomplish a return of spontaneous circulation in the field is pretty rare," he said, adding the fire department averages 12 percent such cases.

Earlier this spring, the department began implementing a new "pit crew" approach to cardiac arrest management, Kennedy said.

"Each of the five medics on the scene puts themselves in position around the patient, and each has one job," he said. "It allows us to do things much quicker, and the main focus is high-quality CPR."

People who are not trained in CPR sometimes worry about doing it wrong, Larson said.

"Our job is to get them to a place where they are calm enough to do that," he said.

Education is the key, Kennedy said.

"We need to start educating people that when someone goes down, the best thing to do is giving CPR."

The city council also recognized a team of Metra employees in Elgin who earned an award at the 2014 Railroad Safety Leadership Forum held April 30 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Metra was the only commuter railroad company that got an award at the forum, Metra Director of Safety Hilary Konczal said.

The company's safety and interactive management team is led by Mark Llanuza and includes Daniel Gavina, Tim Peters, Jim Lauber and Brad J. Clark.

The team placed a walkway at the Elgin yard on Metra's Milwaukee West Line, thereby improving its safety, and added steel bollards to pedestrians crosswalks at Elgin's Nation Street station, so vehicles that make illegal shortcuts won't put pedestrians at risk, Konczal said.

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