School nurse, Pathfinder medical partner save heart attack victim

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Eugene Oliver
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

“I heard someone mention the word ambulance, so I just stepped outside and heard someone say where’s [Alex] and just by the tone I noticed that something was wrong,” said Alejandro Sandoval-Mejia Alconbury Elementary School Nurse.  “I heard that one of the teachers collapsed and ran into the classroom and the first thing I saw was Mr. Martin on the floor; and my first instinct was to run and get the AED machine, then [asked]for someone to call 911.”

On Sept. 16, 2022, Tim Martin, Alconbury Elementary School 2nd Grade teacher, collapsed and suffered a heart attack at the end of the school day while preparing his students to go home.

“The weird thing is that I don’t remember anything that happened from the day,” said Martin. “I was teaching and at the end of the day I had the kids lined up at the door. The next thing I knew it was 24 hours later and I was in the ICU at Addenbrookes, and they told me that I had a cardiac event.

“It’s amazing that I’m still here because when you look at the percentages it’s about a 17% chance of me surviving what I went through, so I feel blessed.”

The actions by Sandoval and fellow staff members were integral to keeping Martin stable until the paramedics arrived.

“I tried to check for his pulse and noticed that I couldn’t really feel it, so I tried to check for his breathing and his chest wasn’t rising,” said Sandoval. “I then realized that he needed CPR so I started pushing on his chest and other teachers were nearby to assist asking how they could help in any way.

“At that point I got really nervous and moved him from the desk and I put the AED paddles on his chest and shocked him and continued CPR. The second time I pushed air through his mouth was when he recovered his breathing.”

While Sandoval was administering CPR, the emotional toll of what was happening started to weigh on him.

“I’ve had to act fast in emergency situations before but this time was different,” said Sandoval. “I was nervous, I was scared. I don’t know if it was because of the emotional attachment we have in this community; we are a small school and I see all of these teachers every day. We say hi, we talk and I consider him my friend as well so when I saw him on the ground and started to press on his chest and felt the body was lifeless that made me very nervous.

“At some point I could feel my eyes watering.”

As Sandoval continued administering aid on Martin, paramedics from the Mid Anglia General Practitioner Accident Service were alerted by base Emergency Medical Services and were first to respond to the call from the school. A strong relationship between the 423d Medical Squadron and MAGPAS proved critical as it expedited medical transport for Martin.

“It’s incredible that there was a system in place that saved me,” said Martin. This could happen to anyone so knowing that there’s a way for paramedics to get on base quickly is incredible.”

While time seemed to stand still for Sandoval, critical support was not far away. 

“It wasn’t long for the paramedics to arrive”, said Sandoval. “It was probably five minutes after I started CPR [when they] arrived,” said Sandoval. “During those minutes, it felt like a long time but it really wasn’t, two sets of compressions, a shock and twice breathing through his mouth; that’s when the paramedics came over my shoulder and said “hey let us take over.”

Martin reflected on that day and how fortunate he was to have been at the school when his heart attack occurred.

“Going back and hearing the story of what happened it was really a miracle that I was at the school when it[occurred], because if I was driving or at home it’s a good chance I wouldn’t even be here,” said Martin. “Luckily all the teachers were there and they had a defibrillator in the building. I was right where I could get immediate help.

“I was very happy Mr. Sandoval was there and that really anyone was there that knew what they were doing. Him and his wife are friends of ours and he told me he was very rattled during it but because of his training he knew exactly what to do and he’s the reason why I’m still alive now for acting so fast.”

Martin was transported to Addenbrookes Hospital where he was treated and then transferred to the Cleveland Clinic in London. He ultimately underwent triple bypass surgery to treat blockages in the main arteries in his heart and is now recovering at home in good spirits and plans to return to teaching in the coming months.

“The caring nature of everyone at the school and how everyone’s been helping out has been so great,” said Martin. “I really appreciated all of the support I received from fellow staff members who never left my side.”