NORTH BEND — It was just about 2 a.m. inside the North Bend 7/11 when a regular customer suddenly slumped against the beverage machine. He collapsed to the floor, his heart beat growing feint. What the man didn’t know was this was his lucky day.
A number of things quickly fell into place that would help save his life. Oregon State Trooper Freddie Dunlap’s shift was ending and he was heading back to headquarters near the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport. Dunlap is one of only two troopers from that office who carry an automated external defibrillator.
The stunned store clerk hit the panic alarm instead of calling 911 when the man collapsed. That alarm, usually reserved for alerting police to fights or robberies in progress, quickly brought North Bend Police and raised Dunlap’s attention as he drove.
“A few seconds later they called out a man down call,” Dunlap reflected Thursday. “I decided to go, and when I got there the North Bend Officer was just entering the 7/11. I saw a gentleman on the floor next to the beverage coolers and it appeared he was in distress. I went back to my car and got the AED out of the trunk.”
With the assistance of North Bend Police and fire personnel, the trooper activated the defibrillator.
Dunlap shocked the man twice and gave CPR until Bay Cities Ambulance arrived on scene. “He was transported to the hospital and has since been transported up to the Valley for more definitive care.”
Dunlap has been patrolling for the Coos Bay Office for 13 years, but the retired Army nurse and trained EMT had never faced a situation like this one. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t prepared.
“Part of our training is with the AED,” Dunlap said. “They’re very simple. You put them on and hit the button, and it tells you what to do and when to do it.”
The problem is most local troopers don’t carry one.
While not excessively expensive, a single device can cost up to $1,800 — more than the state police can budget. The two the police do have are on loan from a local hospital.
For now, however, those will have to do.
Dunlap said he was glad to be there at the exact right moment.
”We bought him some time to spend with his family,” Dunlap said. ”I wouldn’t want to speculate for whatever reason his heart decided to do what it did; I’m just kind of glad that when it did it I was close by.”