Congressman aids in life-saving rescue
September 20th, 2011
05:18 PM ET
11 years ago

Congressman aids in life-saving rescue

Washington (CNN) – While stopping Tuesday morning at a Charlotte airport on his way to Washington, Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee found himself rushing to something other than a plane.

He was scrambling to save a man's life.

Around 7 a.m. ET, the Republican congressman, an obstetrician for 30 years, responded to cries for help after a man collapsed near a New York City departure gate.

"He wasn't breathing, and he started to turn red and blue," said Ward Gibson, a 31-year-old passenger who first saw the man fall to the ground. "I saw his eyes roll back into his head."

Gibson said as he began calling for a doctor and waving people over for help, he saw Roe running towards him from a different gate.

"He gave me the impression that he was someone with the airport administration," Gibson said. "He was so calm and in control and knew how to read the situation."

Gibson said a nurse also responded to the scene and helped assess the man's vitals, which showed no pulse or signs of breathing.

"It was a really bad, bad scene. The entire gate was frozen with people standing around waiting to see what was going to happen," Gibson said. "It was great to see people stepping in to do some good."

Once they were able to position the man for CPR, Gibson said Roe and two other people took turns with compressions while someone else tried to clear the man's airway and give breaths.

"I remember looking down and seeing his wedding ring and thinking this guy has a wife somewhere," said Gibson, who was in charge of holding up the man's legs to pump more blood to the heart. "The biggest thing going through my head was hoping to see him pop up at some point."

According to Roe's office, the congressman assisted with CPR for about five to six minutes, until the EMTs arrived to hook up a defibrillator and initiate an electrical shock to the patient's heart.

"He had flat-lined, but his heart regained a beat after the shock," said Amanda Little, Roe's communications director. "He was dead and came back to life."

Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina had been waiting for a flight with Roe when the congressman suddenly dashed off to help.

"I didn't even know Phil was a doctor," Mulvaney told CNN, describing the scene as one with a "real sense of dread."

"I had never seen anybody giving CPR in person before. It was just a violent thing."

After the man regained a heartbeat, Gibson said he began hearing the patient breathe, although laboriously. He was then wheeled away on a stretcher.

Gibson estimated that from the moment the man had collapsed to the moment he first heard him breathe again, approximately 20 minutes had passed.

His condition appeared to improve quickly, as the patient was reported to be alert and conscious when leaving the airport, according to the airport's communications director, Lee Davis.

Davis said the incident wasn't all that rare, saying the airport estimates emergency personnel respond to about 20 to 25 cases involving CPR per year.

The latest news the congressman's office heard indicated the patient was in stable condition at the hospital.

As for Roe, the two-term congressman went on with his day, making his plane on time and arriving in Washington at 8:48 a.m. for a day of meetings, his office said.

"It was just amazing," Mulvaney said. "Phil was there one minute talking to me at the gate, then he ran over, revived a guy who was dead, came back, picked up his bag and got on the plane."

- CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this report.

Filed under: Congress • South Carolina • Tennessee
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. The Pope

    Way to go, Phil. Good work.

    It's good to know that some Republicans do care if others live or die.

    September 20, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. ddrew78

    Thank you Congressman Roe, for showing that there are still some Republicans out there who actually give a darn about ordinary people.

    September 20, 2011 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  3. reality check

    well done congressman.

    September 20, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. zuperdooper


    September 20, 2011 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  5. carly

    Good thing it wasn't Ron Paul. He would have waited for the local church to help this man.

    September 20, 2011 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  6. Brian

    Finally a Congressman that is good for something!! Good Job!! Now if he could only go back to Washington knock some heads together and breath life into this economy.

    September 20, 2011 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. once upon a horse

    good job Congressman's good to see that there are some that still value human life. Some of those in that Tea Party debate crowd probably would have asked if he had health insurance first and if not just left him there on his own.

    September 20, 2011 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  8. FedUp

    Good job, sir. You were in that place for a reason. Bless you.

    September 20, 2011 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  9. marty

    Absolutely wonderful!! God Bless!

    September 20, 2011 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  10. Lynne

    Well done! I'm sure his family is very grateful for your help!

    September 20, 2011 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  11. Dr Tom

    This is what being a doctor is all about. Way to go!

    September 20, 2011 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |