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EMS providers revive unresponsive fire victim with cyanide antidote

New Bedford EMS only recently began carrying the drug on their ambulances and it was intended to treat firefighters who suffer smoke inhalation

By Curt Brown
The Standard Times

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Firefighters carried an unresponsive woman from a burning building on Tinkham Street early Wednesday and paramedics later revived her with a cyanide antidote that reverses the effects of smoke inhalation, fire officials said.

The 56-year-old woman, who is not identified, also suffered second-degree burns over 20 percent of her body, according to Fire Chief Michael Gomes. He said she was first taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was stabilized, and then transported to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

Engine 8 was the first piece of fire apparatus on the scene at 282 Tinkham St. about 1:45 a.m. and firefighters saw smoke coming from the second floor.

Firefighters forced open the door of a second-floor bedroom and found the victim on the floor behind the door and carried her out of the building, he said.

The woman did not have a pulse and firefighters and paramedics from New Bedford EMS performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation to revive her, he said. Those efforts failed and she was placed in an ambulance and given advanced life support measures by New Bedford EMS, but those efforts also failed to revive her.

She then received a drug intravenously that combats cyanide poisoning to treat her smoke inhalation and paramedics got a pulse from her, Gomes said. Patients who are suffering from smoke inhalation generally suffer extreme cyanide poisoning, he said.

New Bedford EMS only recently began carrying the drug on their ambulances and it was intended to treat firefighters and some civilians, who suffer smoke inhalation, he said. The protocol was recently approved and this was the first time it was deployed in New Bedford.

“It worked very successfully,” Gomes said.

Efforts to contact New Bedford EMS and the New Bedford Police Department for more information were unsuccessful.

Firefighters brought the fire under control and contained it to the second-floor apartment, he said. The building suffered about $40,000 in damage.

Occupants of the apartment building in the city’s near North End were displaced and the Red Cross was helping them find temporary housing, Gomes said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and appears accidental, he said.

“It was hard work by all involved -- fire, police and EMS, all working together,” Gomes said. “It ended up with a successful outcome.”

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