Jim Dolph probably never shared a sweeter high-five.
At about 10:30 p.m. Monday, the lead TSA officer at Buffalo Niagara International Airport slapped hands with one traveler after saving the life of another.
He was a hero.
As Dolph was working his usual third shift behind the airport checkpoint, a radio call for his supervisor went out. An exiting passenger had collapsed. Medical help was needed. Dolph knew he could do something. He needed to.
He heard someone shout that the fallen man was turning blue, so he ran to him, 20-30 yards away. Dolph felt for a pulse, but there wasn’t one. By then, the man was almost purple. Acting out of instinct, Dolph revived the man with a defibrillator that was nearby.
“I knew where the defibrillator was because I pass it every day on my way to work,” said the 57-year-old Dolph, a TSA employee of 12 years. “He couldn’t have been more than 15 feet from the defibrillator.
“I’ve seen similar incidents,” he added, “but this is a case where, ‘OK, it’s up to me now.’ Everybody was kind of standing around, there was nobody doing anything. I had to do something – something had to be done.”
Dolph said he had never used an automated external defibrillator, or AED, in an emergency before. Luckily, he had some prior training with the device while serving in the National Guard and working as a substitute school bus driver for the Clarence and Akron school districts.
“In our training, we had a familiarization with the defibrillator,” Dolph said Thursday afternoon from inside the airport terminal, near the checkpoint. “It’s extremely easy. You open the box, and you listen to what they say – it talks you through everything.”
Dolph pushed the red button and shocked the man, a Russian citizen flying in, he has been told. Another traveler, a nurse, gave chest compressions until the man began to regain his complexion and open his eyes. Medical personnel arrived, and the man began to move around. Then came Dolph’s celebratory gesture with the nurse.
“That felt really good,” he said with a smile. “Once he was shocked and we got the chest compressions going, his color came right back, and the nurse kept saying that’s a great sign. Right then I knew he’s gonna be OK, he’s gonna make it.”
As for being a hero?
“It’s something that anybody can do. Anybody,” he said. “I’d like to put in a plug for companies and municipalities to incorporate training for the people, because just a little bit of familiarization with the machine really calmed me down. It gave me an idea as what to expect.”
Even those who didn’t witness Dolph’s actions firsthand know how swiftly he acted. The whole incident was caught on airport video footage – allowing for even greater appreciation of his response.
“During the entire incident we could see Officer Dolph’s calm demeanor and observe his deliberate actions in coming to the passenger’s rescue,” said Scott Norcutt, the acting assistant federal security director for TSA at the airport.
“He was surely a hero that night.”