One Man’s Story of Survival Thanks to Mercy’s Emergency Medical Service

July 15, 2016

ADA, Okla. - Jan. 25, 2012, marks the day when Amanda Britt’s life changed forever.

She had just loaded her children and nieces into her car to head to church when she received a phone call from a relative telling her an ambulance had been called and she needed to get to the body shop where her husband, Josh, was working with his cousin.

Amanda Britt arrived to the body shop just as the Mercy Emergency Medical Service (EMS) ambulance pulled up.

“I walked in to see my husband laying on the floor,” she said. “He was more blue than I can even describe and was making a squeaking noise about every 30 seconds to a minute. I felt helpless and numb and didn’t know what to do.”

Local, Lifesaving Care

Josh Britt has battled asthma most of his life but was always able to control his asthma attacks by using a nebulizer, which is a treatment that turns asthma medicine into a fine mist that is inhaled into the lungs to regulate breathing.

On that fateful day four years ago, his nebulizer did not help when he suffered an attack caused by exposure to a clear coat paint used on vehicles in the shop. Instead, his respiratory system began to shut down and he passed out due to the lack of oxygen getting to his brain.

When Mercy paramedics Kenney Dalton and Casey Fowler arrived on the scene, Josh Britt was unresponsive and in respiratory distress. They attempted to give him oxygen using a manual bag valve mask, administered intravenous fluids and gave him a dose of epinephrine. The treatments did not work.

Dalton and Fowler contacted physicians in the Emergency Department at Mercy Hospital Ada (formerly Valley View Hospital) to get permission for rapid sequence intubation, which is a process where the paramedics administer medication that causes the patient to relax and become sedated so they can place a tube down the patient’s trachea to get oxygen into his lungs.

Josh Britt’s oxygen levels began to increase and he was transported to the hospital where he was put on life support.

“It was the hardest day of my life,” said Amanda Britt. “Just like you see in the movies, I stayed for the next 37 hours by his life support bed holding his hand while a machine breathed for him. Those are moments in life where you start thinking back to what you could have done differently or what you said or didn’t say. It was really surreal.”


Mercy paramedics Kenny Dalton and Casey Fowler pose with Josh Britt 
Mercy paramedics Kenny Dalton and Casey Fowler pose with Josh Britt 

The Lucky 2 Percent

After 37 hours on a ventilator, doctors started slowly weaning him off sedation and removed the breathing tubes. He quickly began breathing on his own and learned what had happened from doctors and his wife.

“They shared with me that I was extremely lucky and that I had less than a 2 percent chance of survival compared to others with that kind of respiratory failure,” said Josh Britt, 35.

Amanda Britt said doctors told her that her husband would not have survived if it weren’t for the lifesaving measures paramedics administered at the scene. Their quick thinking not only saved his life, it also saved him from experiencing serious brain damage. 

“It was life or death in my situation,” said Josh Britt. “Response time was critical because by the time they got there, I’d already been without adequate oxygen for three to five minutes.”

After five minutes of oxygen loss, a person’s brain cells begin to die. After 10 minutes, patients experience significant brain damage that is hard to come back from.

Josh Britt spent three days in the hospital recovering and is thankful every day for the paramedics who saved his life. He even got to meet Dalton and Fowler after he recovered.

Amanda Britt has not only met Dalton and Fowler, she has worked alongside the pair.

Witnessing firsthand the difference paramedics make in the lives of patients and their families led her down a new career path moving from a job as a police officer to a job working with Mercy’s EMS service in Ada. She has worked as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for Mercy’s EMS service since March and is currently in school to become a paramedic.

As an EMT — and a soon-to-be paramedic — she is committed to saving lives and uses her own personal experience to keep patients’ family members and friends calm and informed about what is happening to their loved one.

“It completely changed my life and I’m thrilled to be working with Mercy now,” she said. “I absolutely love my job.”

24/7 Emergency Response

Each year, Mercy’s highly skilled EMS team responds to about 5,500 calls in and around the Ada area, providing critical lifesaving services to the community. In spite of having to travel up to 25 miles away from the station to respond to calls in some remote parts of the county, the average response time of Mercy’s EMS in Ada is six-and-a-half minutes, which is lower than the national recommendation of an eight-minute response time.

“When a person calls 911 on their worst day, law enforcement officers, firefighters and Mercy’s EMS service together, as a team, provide the highest level of pre-hospital patient care possible,” said David Morriss, paramedic and operations supervisor of Mercy EMS in Ada. “Pontotoc County is very blessed to have the first responders we have in this community. Only a paramedic-level EMS team with advanced training, like Mercy’s EMS service, can provide the expert care and specialized treatment that saved Josh’s life.”

In 2015, the Mercy Health Foundation in Ada raised money to purchase four Lucas Chest Compression Systems for Mercy’s ambulances. The Lucas devices fit over a patient on a gurney or bed and perform chest compressions to increase blood flow, which can restart a heart that has stopped. The devices replace human hands in performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

When a person has sudden cardiac arrest, there is a four-to-six-minute window before there is irreversible brain damage. CPR must be performed quickly, appropriately and for as long as the patient needs before their heart regains the ability to circulate blood.

In cardiac arrest cases, EMS teams have been able to restore blood flow in 48 percent of cases using the Lucas devices. This is compared to 12 percent in 2014 before the introduction of the Lucas devices. Although these devices aren’t the only factor in whether patients survived, they do increase the odds of living through sudden cardiac arrest.

Since Josh Britt’s ambulance call in 2012, policies have changed and paramedics can now administer the medications necessary to sedate patients to administer rapid sequence intubation without waiting on approval from physicians in the emergency department. This saves valuable time that can save lives and brain function.

“I’m thankful decisions to perform rapid sequence intubation can be made in the field because that’s the difference between life and death,” said Amanda Britt. “It was the only thing that saved my husband.”