LOUDON COUNTY, Tenn. — It was a combination of luck and training that put Loudon County deputy Mark Rodriguez at the right place at the right time to save a life.
In the wee hours of last Tuesday morning, he responded to a medical call from a man whose wife of nearly 39 years became unconscious while he was driving her to the emergency room, the sheriff's office said.
Rodriguez was on scene within a minute, he said, but that was not the only stroke of luck.
"If I didn't have that AED," he said. "There's no telling what would have happened."
That night, Rodriguez had one of the sheriff's office's three automated external defibrillators in his patrol car. Upon arriving, he helped pull the unconscious woman from her car and instructed her husband to continue CPR as he prepared the device designed to shock the heart back into rhythm.
"I checked for a pulse in her neck and it was nothing. Her eyes were open, I mean she was not breathing. She was flatlined. So I knew okay we got to get this AED on. The AED talks to you, it tells you exactly what to do," he recalled.
It was Rodriguez's first time using the device, but a video from the incident shows him applying the pads to the woman's chest without hesitation.
"I hit the lightning button and it was a shock and immediately you could hear her. It was a struggle breathing, but she was breathing," he said.
By the time she arrived at the hospital, Rodriguez said she was alert and conscious. Her husband credits Rodriguez's quick actions with saving her life.
"I don't know how she would have made it until the paramedics got there," he said.
Now the department wants to expand its AED program and purchase more devices so more officers can carry them in their patrol cars.
"If Deputy Rodriguez had been on a call on the other end of that [patrol] zone, that equipment wouldn’t have been available," Chief Deputy Jimmy Davis said. "Our goal is for every car for every patrol car to have an AED available."
He asked for the community to help pitch in with the funding for the new devices so more deputies like Mark Rodriguez can save lives.
"I did what I had to do. I did what I trained to do. I did what I signed up for," Rodriguez said. "Ultimately, the blessing is that she gets to spend the holidays with her family."