Dave Itrich doesn't remember much of what happened when his throat started to close. He was working behind the counter at a Shell gas station in Idaho Springs. Then someone grabbed his hand.
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"He says, ‘I'm here with you. We got you. No matter what, we got you.’ And that's the last thing I remember before I went unconscious,” Itrich said.
Itrich lost consciousness April 14 in a bout of anaphylactic shock caused by a shellfish allergy.
Luckily, someone was there and called Clear Creek Emergency Medical Services. Minutes later, first responders were at the scene.
EMS Capt. Clark Church and other responders intubated Itrich, placing a tube in his throat to help him breathe.
“I just started preparing for the procedure, drawing up medications, getting intubation equipment ready as they were continuing to treat his immediate life threat, which was his closing airway and respiratory stress,” Church recalled.
The EMS team performed a rapid sequence intubation, a procedure that is new for them.
The procedure involves two medications given right after each other. One puts the patient to sleep. The other relaxes musculature to enable efficient and effective intubation.
Church had performed this procedure before as a flight paramedic in Washington D.C. This was the first time Clear Creek EMS did it.
It saved them from having to do a more invasive and risky procedure, Church said.
“We would have continued to give him (epinephrine) in hopes that it would work," Church said. "But worst case scenario is his throat continues to close up and then we have to do what’s called a crike, which is when we cut a hole in his throat and stick a tube in the hole. That’s not good for him.”
When Itrich walked into Station 1A to thank the first responders who saved his life, he was overcome with emotion.
“What is the definition of a hero? The definition of a hero is someone that gives you your life and lets you continue on,” Itrich said.
Itrich spent days on life support in the hospital. The day he got out, he was able to hold his grandchild.
Itrich showed off his new EPI Pen, which he keeps with him, per his doctor’s orders.
“The earlier that you get the EPI on board, the better off you’re going to be,” Church said in regards to fighting severe allergic reactions.
Itrich believes his reaction was from touching his face after touching the hand of someone who was in contact with shellfish.
Church and the other members of Clear Creek EMS were happy to see Itrich on his feet, and happy to hear that they made a difference. Church said it’s not necessarily something they hear very much.
“It’s really nice and refreshing," Church said. "And it's very encouraging, I think, especially because the things he remembers was, of course, our medical care, but also that we were kind to him and there for him and that's very encouraging to let people know that we can do both."
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