MCHD’s First Simple Thoracostomy Save

October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016, Magnolia, TX – Everyone was caught by surprise. Jonathan Arteaga and his family moved mobile homes and buildings for a living. They knew what to do, when to do it and the safest way to set up a house to move it. And then the worse thing possible happened.

On February 24, 2016, Jonathan was helping the family move a mobile home when something went terribly wrong. While leveling the mobile home, one of the jacks holding the house gave way. The building fell on top of him, pinning his knees to chest under 37,000 pound of structure.

The emergency medical call went out to responders as an “inaccessible incident,” meaning that the responders would not be able to get to the victim immediately. If it had not been for the rapid series of events that followed, Jonathan would have died underneath that house.

A new Montgomery County Hospital District dispatcher answered the 911 call. Danielle Williams said she “couldn’t forget” this call; she had to tell the family to leave Jonathan under the house until help arrived. Typically, a dispatcher has a list of actions for people on the scene to do to help. Within minutes of the call, Montgomery County Sheriff Deputies Brad Crandell and Kenneth Morris arrived on the scene and determined that Jonathan still had a pulse and jumped into action. Since there were limited resources on site to lift the heavy structure, the deputies called for help from Peter Baty of Magnolia Towing who used his wrecker to safely lift the building so the paramedics could get to Jonathan.

While the house was being moved, Jonathan’s heart stopped beating. The Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department team arrived just as Jonathan was pulled out from under the building and immediately started CPR.

Moments later, Montgomery County Hospital District Emergency Medical Services paramedics Carol Finnegan, Micheal Fischer, and Isaac Shaul, along with their district supervisor Sherry Sullivan, arrived. They determined that Jonathan’s lungs were crushed under the weight of the house.

A more aggressive and advanced intervention was needed to resuscitate Jonathan. MCHD paramedics performed a procedure called a “Simple Thoracotomy,” similar to a chest tube procedure, to re-inflate Jonathan’s crushed lungs. MCHD is the only ambulance service in the State of Texas currently performing this procedure and this procedure saved Jonathan’s life.

Immediately after the thoracostomy, Jonathan regained a pulse. Although he was still in critical condition, a heartbeat for a patient who experienced an incident like Jonathan’s was a sign of hope. The crews moved quickly and Jonathan was soon on the road to Tomball Regional Medical Center, who was only a few months into their pursuit of a Level 3 Trauma Designation. Tomball Regional Medical Center Emergency Department staff were ready for Jonathan, including a trauma surgeon.

After being stabilized, Jonathan was transferred by LifeFlight to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center where he continued to receive care and begin his long road to recovery.

Six months later the people involved in his care were able to reunite with Jonathan and the Arteaga family. Patients who suffer a cardiac arrest secondary to a traumatic event have a small chance of survival. Jonathan beat the odds and survived being folded in half by the weight of a mobile home. Jonathan is still unable to walk but has regained sensation in his lower extremities. He is otherwise, neurologically intact. Jonathan’s story would not have ended this way if not for all of the links in his chain of survival. Thank you to all of the crew members involved in this positive outcome.

Montgomery County Hospital District’s mission is to care for the indigent and provide EMS services while protecting the interests of the taxpayers and insuring long-term stability through fund development. To accomplish this mission, the board members and staff of MCHD abide by the values of accountability, compassion, excellence, innovation, integrity, and unity. For more information about MCHD, visit our website at or call 936-523-5000.