Andersen airman's training may have saved heart-attack victim's life
Staff Sgt. Deroni Brown on Tuesday was helping a family move in Dededo near Andersen Air Force Base on Guam when he heard something hit the floor upstairs.
“I thought it was a box,” he said.
When he ran up he found an elderly man crouched in a corner and breathing heavily, apparently suffering a heart attack.
“Within a few seconds he stopped breathing,” Brown said.
Brown ran to his car to grab a first aid kit, returned and found the man, Thomas Matanane, had only a faint pulse.
Something clicked, he said.
He and another man laid Matanane flat and worked as a team to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
As Brown began doing chest compressions, he heard a cracking sound — just like his CPR trainers had once warned him — the sound of cartilage snapping.
“That sound sticks with you,” he said.
Brown said later he didn’t think much at the time.
“I got kind of nervous at first. Then I calmed myself and I prayed,” he said.
“The training kicked in.”
He ran through a mental checklist for CPR and slipped into a zone.
He said he doesn’t remember the 15 to 20 minutes he performed chest compressions as his partner did mouth-to-mouth breathing on Matanane before paramedics arrived.
After helping the paramedics load Matanane into an ambulance, Brown said he realized he was covered in sweat and exhausted.
Later that night, his wife called the Matanane’s family and the paramedics, who told her the CPR actually saved the man’s life.
“It still hasn’t kicked in,” Brown said.
Brown later found out Matanane is a retired Air Force member.
When he met the man’s daughter, “she hugged me like 20, 30 times,” he said.
“It is so surreal,” Odilia Bautista, Matanane’s daughter, was quoted in a base news release as saying, “because my dad retired from the Air Force and we were told by the doctor that the CPR performed by this young man who is in the Air Force saved my dad’s life.
“We are really thankful that he was there and he knew what to do.”
Brown said he never thought much about the annual first aid training he receives.
But he does now.
“It makes me want to get even more training because you never know what you might face out there,” he said.
Brown is with the 736th Security Forces, part of the 36th Contingency Response Group.
“I don’t feel like a hero, I was just doing my job,” he said.
“The biggest reward I got is that he is still alive and can spend time with his family.”