Congressman’s CPR saves collapsed airport traveler’s life

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Chalk up Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil Roe’s Tuesday morning actions to heroism: Roe saved a man’s life with CPR after he flatlined in the Charlotte, N.C., airport.

Roe, an obstetrician before he first ran for public office, was walking through the Charlotte terminal with South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney at about 7:15 a.m. when someone yelled out, “Is anybody here a doctor? There’s a gentleman who just collapsed!”

“When I got there, he wasn’t breathing,” Rep. Roe told The Daily Caller in a phone interview. “I think there was another doctor there, but we didn’t really have a chance to introduce ourselves. I just said, ‘I’m Dr. Roe, so and so,’ and then we just dived on top of the guy and started giving him CPR.”

Rep. Mulvaney told TheDC that Roe rushed to the man’s side and began CPR immediately.

“He literally had just collapsed and Phil ran over there and I believe there was a nurse in the same area and Phil was on this guy [so fast],” Mulvaney said in a phone interview. “I bet the guy wasn’t down probably 30 seconds before Phil was taking care of him. They gave him CPR for like 5 or 6 minutes. They pumped his chest pretty good. It was work, it was pretty intimidating to watch.”

When paramedics arrived shortly thereafter, their emergency equipment showed the man had flat lined. Mulvaney said the man was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was legally dead.

“The guy was dead,” Mulvaney said. “There’s no question.”

Roe confirmed that the man likely would not have survived if efforts to resuscitate him weren’t made immediately.

After Roe and the other physician administered CPR, he and the paramedics shocked the man with a defibrillator.

The man came back to life. His heart started again and he began breathing. Mulvaney said he was conscious but disoriented.

Roe told TheDC that this was the first time he has used one of the new-style portable AEDs, or “automated external defibrillators.”

“They work great and we just had to defibrillate him once, which is good,” he told TheDC.

Mulvaney was astonished at how calm, cool and collected Roe was throughout the entire episode.

“I don’t know if he [Roe] has ever done this before in public, but he looked as though he’d done it about a thousand times,” Mulvaney said. “It was impressive to watch.”

Roe said he had never dealt with a person in cardiac arrest out in public before, but he has navigated some interesting medical emergencies. “I’m waiting to deliver a baby, I know that’s going to happen to me somewhere,” he said. “This is the first [cardiac] arrest I’ve had, but I’ve had three seizures and I can’t think of how many people who have passed out in the summer.”

Roe won’t take all the credit for saving the man’s life. “I really want to praise the police officers there and the EMTs,” he told TheDC, adding that he plans to write letters to their supervisors applauding their work. “They did a great job. I’m just glad I’m around and able to help. Whatever help I can give, I’m certainly happy to do so.”

Mulvaney, though, was complimentary:“This guy is alive because of Phil Roe and a couple other very important people at the airport.”

US Airways held Roe’s and Mulvaney’s flight back to Washington until the man was ready to be transported to the hospital; Roe stayed with him until he was stable. Then, he asked local officials to keep him updated on the man’s condition.

“I gave the police officer my card and asked him would he please call me back and let me know how the man is,” Roe said. “So, he called me and said they got him to the hospital and they think he’s going to make it … I don’t know who this guy is, I don’t know a thing about him. I’m just glad that myself and the others there were able to help.”

Roe was a practicing OB/GYN before running for public office a few years ago. He said being a doctor always trumps being a congressman, or anything else. Medical duties always come first.

“I graduated medical school 41 years ago,” Roe said. “After 41 years of private practice, you don’t just hang that up and walk away and become something else. I’m a doctor first and that’s the way I think always.”

Roe regularly catches connecting flights in Charlotte while traveling between his Tennessee district and Washington, D.C.

Local emergency officials have not returned TheDC’s requests for comment or more information.

This story has been updated with quotes and more information from a telephone interview The Daily Caller conducted with Rep. Roe after the story was first published.

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Matthew Boyle