ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It's not uncommon to see dozens of law enforcement personnel and first responders in and around Highmark Stadium on a Bills gameday, but it's not every day that they swoop into action to save someone's life.
It's even more rare that there are two rescues on the very same day.
That was the case on Sunday, Jan. 2. Before the Bills beat the Atlanta Falcons to clinch their third consecutive playoff berth, there were some other odds at play, and none to do with football.
"Two in one day? I do not recall an event like this," Dr. Kevin McGee said.
McGee is the chief medical officer for the Erie County Sheriff's Office and a reserve deputy. He deploys with SWAT and the department's Quick Response Force (QRF).
Members of the QRF were at their post on Abbott Road near parking lot four when a call came out over the radio — a man a few hundred yards away was in cardiac arrest. He wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse.
McGee grabbed his medical gear from his SUV and ran over to the man.
"It's a little known part of the Sheriff's Office. Over the past several years, a lot of time and effort has been put in developing the Medical Response Unit, which is composed of deputies that are cross-trained as EMTs and paramedics. We have about 20 deputies that are cross-trained. Everyone is issued their own medical gear," McGee said.
Bystanders had already initiated CPR, and then McGee initiated care with an AED. He was assisted by Sgt. Chris Soluri, an Erie County Sheriff's Deputy who is also cross-trained as a paramedic, along with members of the Orchard Park Fire Company.
"The timing of that is critical. Getting someone to an AED quickly, applying it and letting it work is essential for some patients to survive. And in this case I would say it was absolutely essential," McGee said.
McGee and Soluri were with the man for about 20 minutes before he was taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo.
"We don't just scoop our patients up and run away. We want to stay and do good medicine. We did that as long as we could, and once the patient was responding and doing well, we were able to load him in the ambulance and go. I transported to the hospital with him just to kind of follow through with the patient's care," McGee said.
Meanwhile, inside the stadium during the first half of the game, there was another call for help. This time a man was unresponsive.in a bathroom near section 134.
An off-duty federal law enforcement officer caught the man as he passed out.
"The off-duty federal agent did say that the man wasn't breathing. I came in. We both assisted with cutting off the man's clothes, getting to his chest. I started CPR. Me and the off-duty federal agent both changed out doing CPR until AMR arrived," Reserve Deputy Aaron Binner said.
Binner has been with the Erie County Sheriff's Office just eight months, but he's been a volunteer firefighter since he was 14. He's a certified EMT and became a CPR instructor two years ago. He previously worked for Mercy Flight and is currently a medic in the New York National Guard.
"I've got some training under my belt," Binner told 2 On Your Side's Heather Ly.
The second man was also taken to Mercy Hospital by ambulance. Both men the deputies and bystanders helped that day survived and are recovering.
"As an emergency physician, I see patients in critical times, and they get admitted to the hospital. We don't get a lot of follow up, but in this case I was informed of his outcome and that was a great feeling," McGee said. "It feels pretty good to hear that someone went home, and they're with their family and maybe even get to enjoy another Bills game."
Binner says acting quickly makes all the difference, especially when CPR is involved.
"Push hard, push fast right in between where the nipple line is. The hard plate. The sternum. Push hard. Push fast until first responders arrive. Make sure you call 911 right away," Binner said.
Both McGee and Binner encourage everyone to learn CPR because you never know when you might be the closest person who can save someone's life.
The American Heart Association has a tool on their website to help you find a CPR and/or First Aid training course near you.