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March 17, 2017

Paramedics perform lifesaving thoracostomy on crushed patient

By Audrey Fraizer

CONROE, Texas — Walking with the assistance of leg braces shows remarkable progress in recovery for 20-year-old Jonathan Arteaga, considering the trauma he experienced one year earlier.

The then 19-year-old Arteaga was prepping for the move of a mobile home, which is a routine operation for Arteaga’s Mobile Home Service, in Conroe, Texas. Sometimes unexpected things happen, as they did on Feb. 24, 2016. A jack holding the house gave way, and the 37,000-pound mobile home fell on top of Arteaga, pinning his knees to his chest. 

The 911 call was answered by Danielle Williams, an EMD with Montgomery County Hospital District communication center.

“I knew there would be difficult calls but nothing like this,” Williams said. “A house was on top of a human being. This was really beyond what you’d expect.”

Family members at the site were at a complete loss. They could neither lift the house to free Arteaga nor provide any immediate medical attention.

“They had to wait,” Williams said. “I’m sure that was very hard for them but there was nothing that they could do.”

Within minutes of the 911 call, Montgomery County Sheriff Deputies Brad Crandell and Kenneth Morris arrived on scene. They contacted Magnolia Towing. Peter Baty maneuvered his wrecker to lift the home to facilitate EMS rescue. Arteaga had a pulse. Moments later, his heart stopped. Next, the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department arrived to provide its link in saving Arteaga’s life, followed by Montgomery County Hospital District paramedics. 

The impact, paramedics soon discovered, had crushed Arteaga’s lungs. They performed a simple thoracostomy, a procedure MCHD pioneered to re-inflate the lungs of patients with traumatic cardiac arrest and known or suspected injury to the chest and/or abdomen.

Within seconds, he had a pulse. He was in a coma for 10 days and was able to recognize friends and family within six weeks. Physical therapy started while in the hospital and continues during his at-home recovery.  

Arteaga cannot remember anything from that day, and the same goes for events prior to the incident.

“People there told me what happened,” he said. “My family talks about things before the accident and there’s a month that’s lost.”

The responders involved in saving his life met the Arteaga family in a ceremony honoring the phenomenal EMS chain of survival. Arteaga was speechless.

“There were so many,” he said. “I was expecting maybe three people would show up and there were at least 40. I am very grateful for what they did to help me.”

Julie Martineau, PIO, Montgomery County Hospital District, contributed to this story.


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