Terre Haute officer's CPR saves man's life

THPD photoPatrolman Ryan Plasse of the Terre Haute Police Department.

The quick actions of a city police officer are credited with saving an Ohio man’s life Tuesday night when the man experienced a heart attack outside the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Terre Haute.

“I’m pretty proud of him,” Chief Shawn Keen said of Patrolman Ryan Plasse, who responded to the 11:13 p.m. call on the north side of the hotel.

“Times like this, you get to see how important your job can be to other people,” the chief said.

Plasse had just started his night shift and was parked along Wabash Avenue when he heard a call for a “man down” just two blocks away. When he arrived at the scene off North Seventh Street, he said he saw the man lying on his side with blood on his face and a woman next to him.

The woman said she thought the man was having a seizure, Plasse said. But the man’s skin felt cold and was turning blue, and the man had no pulse.

Plasse placed the man on his back, checked his airway and started performing chest compressions.

“About the 30th compression, he took a deep gasp and opened his eyes,” Plasse said of the man. Medics with the Terre Haute Fire Department soon arrived and took over.

As the medics continued medical care and loaded the man into an ambulance, Plasse took the man’s suitcases into the hotel and had them secured by the clerk.

The officer then drove to Union Hospital and arrived as the man was talking to medics as he was being unloaded from the ambulance.

“I immediately felt relief then,” Plasse said of seeing the man’s condition. The man was alert enough to give Plasse his contact information for the incident report.

“The doctor said that if the chest compressions had started later, he might not have survived,” Plasse said. “It’s important to keep the blood circulating.”

In his six-plus years as a police officer, Plasse said he has only performed CPR one other time, and that woman was also revived. She later died due to complications, however.

Plasse said his quick actions were the result of his experience and the regular training officers receive for CPR and other life-saving measures.

“At first when the lady with him said she had him on his side for a seizure, I took her at her word for a seizure,” Plasse said. “But when I noticed zero breathing and no pulse, the more you train, the more familiar you are with those signs of a heart attack. I knew blood flow was important.”

Diana Luther, the city’s assistant fire chief for emergency medical training, commended Plasse’s efforts in an email she sent to Keen early Wednesday.

“I wanted to give a kudo’s to Officer Ryan Plasse,” Luther wrote. “He responded to an unconscious person last night and recognized the patient did not have a heartbeat. He quickly started doing effective compressions [which is of utmost importance in cardiac arrests]. His quick actions played a vital role in saving this man’s life.”

Luther said the situation was the “perfect storm” for the man’s survival. Plasse’s proximity to the scene and his training gave a head start to the life-saving efforts of the firefighter medics who responded.

She stressed the importance of everyone becoming trained in CPR so they can respond when necessary.

Keen agreed, noting that police officers often get to a scene ahead of medics.

Ryan Plasse is the son of Vigo County Sheriff John Plasse, a former chief of the city department.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.

Lisa Trigg has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star since 2009. With more than 30 years of newspaper experience, she now covers general news with a focus on crime and courts.

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