2009-04-16 / News

Islander receives award for saving child's life

By Eileen M. Daly

Newport Patrolman Jason T. Head received the American Legion Award for Merit on March 25 at the American Legion Hall in Riverside, RI. Head was instrumental in saving the life of a 2-year-old child who was visiting Newport with his family during February of 2008.

Head, the son of a 16th generation Jamestown family, grew up on Jamestown where he lived with his family on East Shore Road. His parents, Bud and Joanne Head, are longtime residents who continue to reside in the family home.

Head has been with the Newport Police Department for the past seven years. Newport Police Department Captain Fred Gonsalves presented the award to Head at a ceremony that also included other Rhode Island Police officers who received merit awards.

Head said he had just begun his regular 3 to 11 p.m. shift, on that February afternoon, when he received a call regarding an unresponsive child at the Marriott Hotel. "When I arrived at the hotel Fire Department personnel informed me that the child had previous medical problems, that he had a tracheotomy and that the tracheotomy tube had fallen out, leaving the boy unable to breath," Head said.

"My job is usually to assist by keeping family members away from the scene so the rescue personnel can work," he said. This time, however, Head said, he was asked to assist with chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. "The child was not only unresponsive, he was turning blue. It was obvious he wasn't doing well," Head said.

It was really out of the ordinary, he said. "I've never had to directly assist in a situation like this. Not before and not since."

What made the already emotional situation even more intense for Head, he said, was the fact that the child was a twin. "I have twin boys," Head said, "and they were the same age at the time." He didn't have time to think about any of that until after the crisis was resolved, however.

"You just go on instinct," he said. "I started to do the compressions and it was an odd feeling. You're only using two fingers to work on a child that age, but you are pressing pretty hard and to have him not responding was just really hard for everyone."

Finally, Head said, just as fire department personnel were readying the defibrillator, the child began

to breath again on his own. "It was like everyone in the room breathed a big sigh of relief," Head said.

Officer Head praised the mother of the child who, he said, remained calm and helpful throughout. "She really did well. She knew all about the equipment the child used and she remained calm and didn't get in the way," he said.

The family had traveled to Newport for an older daughter's dance competition, Head said. "They were traveling with a nurse, but she was not able to replace the tracheotomy tube when it fell out."

Head remained with the family until the child was safely at Newport Hospital from where the child was transported to Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence. He called the child's mother the next morning and, Head said, she reported that he was stable and doing fine.

"We go into professions like this, (police, fire, nursing,) because we want to help and it was really nice to be able to help in a situation like this and to have it turn out so well," Head said.

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