HFD's new procedure saving lives

August 13, 2009 5:18:08 PM PDT
An elderly woman's life was saved due to quick thinking by firefighters. Crews from the Houston Fire Department used a special kit from the Homeland Security Department to help the woman who was overcome by smoke. It's not the first time the kit has been used. That woman was rescued from this house, which you can see is a total loss at Sayers and Fogle in northeast Houston. Her life was saved with a tool originally used to treat victims of terrorist attacks.

As the flames raged Wednesday night, firefighters rescued two people. One was an 80-year-old woman who was suffering from so much smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning that emergency crews saw no option but to try a new procedure.

"This is a powder. It's a powder in there," said Chief Adrian Trevino.

The Houston Fire Department says it used a cyanide antidote kit like this one on the woman.

"We were the first ones, HFD, we were the first ones in the nation to utilize this cyanide antidote kit for carbon monoxide poisoning," said Chief Trevino.

HFD now has more than 20 of the kits, kept in the vehicles of supervisors. They were first purchased with homeland security funds for use in case of terrorist attack. However, Chief Trevino says studies in the United Kingdom showed the antidote also effective in treating carbon monoxide victims because both that and cyanide have the same effect on the body.

"They block the oxygen from getting to our cells, to our hemoglobin, to our blood, and it's what this kit does. It removes it," said Chief Trevino

The medicine, injected by IV, helps promote that oxygenation. It's not the first time the kit has been used successfully. HFD says it's been deployed seven times in the last year and a half. The very first life saved was one of their own.

"I'm glad that we have this at the fire department," said firefighter Brandon Everette.

Everette succumbed to smoke while fighting this blaze in January of last year. He believes he might have died had he not been given the cyanide antidote.

"They said once they gave it to me, within 45 seconds, my heart rate had improved. I started to breathe on my own and I opened my eyes and came around. It's an excellent drug," said Everette.

The kits run about $1,000 apiece.

As for as the family burned out of their house, the family says the 80-year-old woman and her husband will be OK. However, we are told their daughter may not make it.

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