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Local EMT honored for saving man's life

January 06, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A typical night on duty with the College of Charleston (S.C.) first responder team last November turned out to be anything but routine for Hagerstown resident Bradford Bettencourt.

Then just 19, Bettencourt - a certified emergency medical technician - was called upon to use his training to bring a man back to life during a tense medical emergency.

"I remember I showed up for duty about 15 minutes early on Nov. 6 and was going through some supplies when I heard a noise," Bettencourt said.

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That noise was coming from Charles Becktell, whom Bettencourt found slouched over his desk in the booking room next door.

Becktell, 35, a public safety officer at the college, went into full cardiac arrest for 90 seconds before he was "shocked" back to life by Bettencourt and Rick Krantz, college safety director, who together used a portable defibrillator.

A defibrillator directs an electric shock through the chest wall into the heart to re-establish the proper heart rhythm.

"It worked the first time," Bettencourt said. He trained previously on the use of the portable defibrillator at college but had actual experience using one in his duties with Community Rescue Service in Hagerstown, where he also volunteers when he is home.

An advanced life support unit just down the street from the college center was summoned, and Becktell was taken to a hospital.

Even though Bettencourt went on and worked his regular shift that night at the college, the word spread about the event and a ceremony was held Nov. 15 in Charleston honoring him, Krantz and Anthony Powell, another safety officer who aided in the rescue.

Becktell was well enough to attend the ceremony. Admitted to a Charleston hospital for angioplastic surgery to remove blockages, Becktell was released a few days later and has been recuperating at home.

In a videotape of the awards ceremony, Becktell was seen handing the awards to his three rescuers and hugging them.

That same videotape began with the film taken on the day of the rescue, showing Becktell slumped at his desk and the three men scurrying to attend to him.

Bettencourt came home to be with his family in Hagerstown for the Christmas holidays. Now 20, he is the son of Richard and Corbin Bettencourt of Hagerstown.

The Bettencourt family moved to Washington County when Bradford was in the seventh grade.

He went to St. James School for two years, then graduated from Virginia Episcopal School.

His first introduction into EMT training was in school. He has earned his EMT designation, which he puts to good use both at the College of Charleston, where he is a communications major, and back home at CRS.

"I also work in the safety department at Whitetail Ski Resort when I'm home," Bettencourt said.

It was hours after the incident before it hit Bettencourt that he helped save a man's life. He was just thankful he had the training and knew what to do.

"These three men changed the course of history for Mr. Becktell," said College Public Safety Chief Don Cronin at the videotaped ceremony. "That day he died, but today he is alive and here with us."

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