Stoughton Fire Chief Mark Dolloff’s recent vacation in St. Thomas ended in nothing less than heroism when he saved the life of a fellow vacationer in cardiac arrest this past Friday afternoon.
Dolloff and his wife, Teresa, were on vacation with three other couples. They went back to the hotel for lunch, but the Dolloffs decided to stay on the beach.
“I was in the right place at the right time”, said Dolloff, who returned Saturday evening from the vacation.
It was Friday, around 1 p.m. while Dolloff and his wife, Teresa, sat on Frenchman’s Cove Beach that Dolloff noticed commotion in the water.
“I heard someone yell, “I can’t pull him in”...[that’s when] I threw my stuff down and ran to the water,” he recalls.
Dolloff said his wife, who was reading a book with headphones in at the time, knew something was wrong because she hasn’t seen him run since his hockey accident two years ago.
“I got about waist deep in the water when I helped the others pull the lifeless body to shore,” Dolloff said. “It was a man in his mid-to-late forties and he was as blue as blue can be.”
Seeing that the man had no pulse and no respiration, Dolloff did what he says “any firefighter would do” and sprung into action. Showing another good samaritan how to open and maintain the man’s airway, Dolloff started doing chest compressions right away.
Dolloff explains, “I instructed the man’s wife to give him a couple of breaths [and] I truly believe they made the difference.”
“When we were done, he was breathing a little on his own and he had a pulse,” Dolloff said. “We turned him to his right side so he could get some of the water out, he threw up and then he began to ‘pink’ up.”
While the good samaritan continued to hold the man on his side, Dolloff began crowd control, clearing a pathway for the ambulance.
“I started telling people to move the furniture out of the way and instructed the hotel staff to meet the ambulance crew and guide them to us,” he said.
“I know that is the hardest part sometimes for us when we go to a call, everyone rushes to the person injured and there is no one there to tell us how to get to them or where they even are.”
To Dolloff’s dismay the beach, “had no lifeguards, no medically trained staff on scene nor automatic defibrillator.” He said his wife had to search for someone who worked there to call an ambulance.
Dolloff never did find out the man’s name or where he was from though was happy to learn that he was released from the hospital the next day.
Dolloff says he “wouldn’t have said anything about [the rescue] but admits that it is nice to see a story with a positive outcome getting reported.”
So what does Teresa Dolloff think of her husband’s heroism? She says she is thankful that he had the training and knowledge to perform CPR and proud of his effort but most of all, “thrilled with the outcome.”
For Dolloff, it’s just another day in the life of a firefighter, even one who was on vacation.
“I don’t think I did anything that any member of the Stoughton Fire Department wouldn’t have done if given the same situation,” he said.