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The right place, the right time

Guided by intuition, officer helps save three lives in past three years with CPR

Posted: December 26, 2013 - 1:07am
Juneau Police Department Officer Jarrett Mahoney has been awarded the department's life saving badge numerous times since his time as an officer in 2009.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Juneau Police Department Officer Jarrett Mahoney has been awarded the department's life saving badge numerous times since his time as an officer in 2009.

When a call came over the radio that there was an unconscious male in front of the Governor’s Mansion, Juneau Police Department Officer Jarrett Mahoney saw a red flag.

“A male passed out in the downtown area, that’s an every day occurrence, I go to those several times a day. But in the area of the Governor’s Mansion didn’t sound right to me,” he said. “I knew something was not right, that’s not a common occurrence, and I knew something was wrong with that.”

The police officer was right. An older man, who had just run a 5K earlier that morning back in 2011, had a massive heart attack and went into cardiac arrest on the sidewalk. Mahoney happened to be nearby on Ninth Street, was one of the first on scene and helped save the man’s life by administering CPR.

The scenario proved not to be a singular incident. The next year in September 2012, Mahoney gave CPR to man who overdosed on drugs and helped revive him. And earlier this month, Mahoney once again helped save someone’s life by giving CPR — a 60-year-old man who collapsed during a Christmas choir performance at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center.

Remarkably, all three saves have been successful. That’s despite statistics from the American Heart Association that show less than eight percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive.

Though shy to accept any sort of acclaim for his actions, for which he has received multiple life-saving medals from the police department, Mahoney, 36, opened up in a recent interview with the Empire about why he thinks the saves have been successful.

A quick response is the biggest factor, he said, noting every second counts from the time of cardiac arrest to the initiation of CPR. The man in distress at the JACC, for instance, had gone into cardiac arrest while Mahoney and another officer were already tending to him and checking his pulse.

“He didn’t go into arrest until about the moment we got to him, so I mean, it was almost instantly into CPR,” he said. “So I think that was his saving grace right there, and that we just happened by chance to be in the building at the time.”

Being there, though, is the trick. Part of it is luck — in the JACC case, he went there to show a friendly police presence, and also to hear the Christmas carols. He and Officer Frank Dolan just happened to be there when the medical assistance call went over the fire department’s radio.

The other part of it, though, is being proactive. Mahoney actively monitors the fire department’s radio in addition to the JPD radio, which is how he heard about the man in distress at the JACC and the other two cases.

“I guess that’s one of the common denominators here,” he said. “I always scan the fire channel.”

Mahoney also has a background in Emergency Medical Services. He has been a certified Emergency Medical Technician since he was 16 years old, and has worked in that capacity for “years and years and years” both as a volunteer and professionally in Pennsylvania.

Originally from Uniontown, Pa., he moved to Juneau in 2002 to take a position as a call-taker with the JPD, and he became a patrol officer in 2007. He began working the downtown beat earlier this year.

He estimates over his career he’s given CPR hundreds of times, though not many patients survive.

“There’s a very small percentage of it actually being successful,” he said.

But any successful CPR save, he emphasized, is a team effort, beginning with the person who alerts the authorities, the dispatchers who give instructions, the first responders and doctors at the hospital.

“It’s a team effort 100 percent of the time,” he reiterated.

Between monitoring the fire department’s radio and pure luck or happenstance of being nearby, Mahoney said he also thinks he has something else guiding him, which has allowed him to help save lives.

“I have intuition,” he said. “That’s one thing schools and things don’t teach you.”

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