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New Tool Allows Firefighters To Treat Smoke Inhalation Instantly

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Willy George thanks Arlington firefighters for saving his life.  (credit: Joel Thomas/CBS 11 News)

Willy George thanks Arlington firefighters for saving his life. (credit: Joel Thomas/CBS 11 News)

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ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) - The Arlington Fire Department received a call in May from a man in a wheelchair.

There was smoke in Willy George’s duplex. George was about to learn the value of a new piece of technology first-hand.

The 9-1-1 call from George reveals the potentially deadly consequences of inhaling smoke during a fire.

“I’m unable to get to the door,” George told the 9-1-1 dispatcher when he called in.

“You can’t get to the door? Are you inside?” the dispatcher asked.

There is no reply, just the beeping of smoke detectors in the background.

“What is on fire, sir?” the dispatcher asked.

There was still no reply.

“Sir, what’s on fire?” the dispatcher asked more forcefully.

“I’m disabled and I….,” George’s response faded off.

“Sir, what is on fire? ” The dispatcher repeated.

“I don’t know,” George finally replied.

There is a slow, but forced interchange between the dispatcher and George until finally she asked, “Sir, do you have a call number you can be reached on?”

This time there was far longer pause with no reply.

“Hello?” the dispatcher said. “Hello?”

George had passed out from smoke inhalation. Firefighters carried him out of his home.

“Once we got him outside we laid him down and he unconscious and unresponsive,” said Firefighter Chris Holland who was one of the first on the scene.

Arlington used a new piece of technology on George called the Cyanokit. Arlington was the first fire department in North Texas to have it. Researchers used to think it was mainly carbon monoxide in smoke that killed people.

“We’ve only recently begun to understand that there is a second culprit, cyanide,” said Dr. Cynthia Simmons, the Arlington Fire Department’s medical director.

The Cyanokit is an IV. The chemicals actually convert the cyanide in a person to a non-toxic form of vitamin B. Amazingly, George was conscious within minutes of receiving the medicine, saving his life.

“We have a greater understanding of what is causing people to be sick when they’re in a fire, and we now actually have something we can do about it,” Dr. Simmons said.

Arlington Fire Department representatives say the technology has already saved three lives in just over a year.

George was glad to be able to attend a special ceremony honoring the firefighters for their life-saving actions that day.

“Well, I’m quite sure if they hadn’t shown up, I wouldn’t be here talking to you!” George exclaimed.

“That’s what we get in the job for…is that nice, warm fuzzy of being able to make a rescue and talk to people and build a relationship,” Holland said.

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