Man answers call to save a life

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tonnette Thompson
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
When Adrian Sibayan decided to pick up a ringing phone on his way out the door this summer, he had no idea that answering the call would put him in a life-or-death situation. But that's exactly what happened when he heard the voice of a frantic mother trying to save her son's life. 

A mother's nightmare

For Suzy Haudenshild, it all began with a scream.

The 82nd Services Squadron veterinary clinic automation clerk had called in sick the morning of Aug. 9, and stayed home with her son, Nicholas, 20, and his girlfriend, Ashley.

"It was just a bad feeling," Mrs. Haudenshild said. "Call it mother's intuition, but I just knew I needed to be home that day."

Ashley was with Nicholas as he sat on his bed and carried on a phone conversation. As Ashley watched in growing horror, Nicholas suddenly lost consciousness and began turning blue -- his head slumping to one side.

Moments later, Mrs. Haudenshild was awoken from a nap with her granddaughter by Ashley's loud, frantic pleas for help. She found her son with no pulse.

"My son was dying," she said.

Mrs. Haudenshild, a fire department EMT in the 1980s, knew deep down what she needed to do. However, the panic of a parent whose child is in danger eclipsed her training to the point where she couldn't even remember to dial 911. 

A call for help

After Ashley made the call, Mrs. Haudenshild tried to fight through her fear and think. She had to help her son, but couldn't do it alone. Her husband was unreachable in a meeting. Waiting for the paramedics to arrive could cost Nicholas his life.

"I knew I needed to call someone for help now," she said. "I have been here for 10 years and know so many numbers, but at that moment I could only think of one."

Seconds later, a phone in the building maintenance section of the base clinic rang. Adrian Sibayan, assistant facility manager for the 82nd Medical Support Squadron, had already called it a day and was heading for the exits when he heard his phone from down the hall. 

He could have kept walking and let his voicemail pick up. Instead, he doubled back to his office, unlocked the door and took the call.

"It happens all the time," said Mr. Sibayan. "A water line break, air conditioning broken. These calls don't always come during business hours, so you have to be ready to answer the phone whenever."

Instead of a complaint about a leaky roof, Mr. Sibayan found a near-hysterical mother on the line, begging for help with her dying son -- a mother with a familiar voice.

"He recognized me," Mrs. Haudenshild said, "from all the times I've called from the vet clinic."

Mr. Sibayan instructed Mrs. Haudenshild to move Nicholas to the floor in case chest compressions were needed. As she complied, the change in position improved Nicholas's condition and a weak pulse emerged.

From there, Mr. Sibayan calmly talked her through the steps of CPR, and as he did so, Mrs. Haudenshild's training came back to her.

Finally, with a spasm and a spew of vomit, Nicholas was breathing again.

When paramedics arrived, they found Mrs. Haudenshild still on the phone with the man on the other end insisting to speak to them.

"He stayed on the phone with me to keep me calm and for morale," Mrs. Haudenshild remembers. "He wouldn't hang up until he heard an EMT identify himself and tell him the situation was being handled." 

All in a day's work

Nicholas is recovering at home. According to Mrs. Haudenshild, he suffered from cardiac arrest due to poisoning.

"He has bad knees," she explained, "and has taken Acetaminophen for years. It's reached a toxic level in his system, and this was the outcome."

In recalling how Mr. Sibayan's intervention has impacted her family, Mrs. Haudenshild is overcome by emotion.

"I owe my son's life to Adrian," she said, her voice wavering. "He was so awesome."

Her voice finally breaking, she said she'll never be able to fully express her gratitude.
But Mr. Sibayan doesn't consider himself a hero.

"I didn't do anything particularly special," he said, a tone of bemused awe in his voice from all the attention. "This is just the kind of thing we do here: the phone rings, and you handle whatever situation's on the other end."

Still, he can chalk up that evening as an especially good day's work.