What compels the Coast Guardsman
(Story provided by U.S.C.G.)
A woman is yelling. I can’t tell what she’s saying. It sounds like German. Restaurant patrons look uncomfortable, her dialogue frantic and indecipherable. I look at her red mini-van in the parking lot, double parked with the passenger door opened. A road map falls from an opened door to the ground. Oh my god, her husband must have had a heart attack.
The intuition of 21-year-old Nathaniel Ryma, a fireman at Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay, in Newport, Ore., turned out to be correct. “Everyone just stared at her. I knew something was wrong, and somebody had to act,” said Ryma. He approached and found a man in the vehicle and checked for vital signs. “He wasn’t moving. He was dead.”
The man was too large to remove from the seat so Ryma climbed in and began chest compressions. There was no decision to make. He knew what needed to be done and continued CPR for more than 25 minutes. “A lady came out and began giving him breaths, and right before the police and ambulance arrived, he began gasping for air,” said Ryma.
Response crews and vehicles arrived in a flurry of emergency lights and noise, taking over CPR and setting up for defibrillation. Ryma went back into the restaurant to await his dinner. A few minutes later the scene was as quiet as it had been before, as if nothing had happened.
The entire incident would have gone forgotten if not noticed by Sergeant Tom Simpson of the Newport Police Dept. Once the ambulance crew revived the man, Simpson returned and told Ryma that his actions had saved a life. “He was very humble and had simply stepped away when more firefighters and medics arrived, going back to his meal at a nearby restaurant,” said Simpson. Simpson later stopped by Ryma’s station and described the young fireman’s actions.
With less than a year in service, it was the first time Ryma had administered CPR. “I felt calm. The Coast Guard has trained me to be in control of a situation and handle myself well in high stress. There were a lot of people standing around that didn’t know what to do. You can’t ever assume that someone else is going to do something,” said Ryma.
On Sept. 23, 2011, In the first year of his career, Ryma saved a man’s life. He was the pivotal force in a moment of life or death. The beginning of the first chapter of his life of service.
The Newport City Council and Newport Police Department last week issued Coast Guardsman Nathaniel Ryma a Certificate of Commendation for his willingness to see a dire emergency and immediately step in to help support a positive outcome.