By Colleen Truelsen
Osawatomie Graphic – November 26, 2014
Kansas City, Kan., Deputy Fire Chief Frank Duke (right) presents Osawatomie’s Assistant Police Chief Bob Butters (center) the Civilian Award of Merit from the Kansas City, Kan., Firefighter’s Relief Association on Friday night. At left is the on-scene paramedic who nominated Butters for the prestigious award. Photo by Colleen Truelsen.
Osawatomie Assistant Police Chief Bob Butters’ life-saving actions last May while off-duty helping build a playground at his wife’s school were honored Friday night with the Civilian Award of Merit at the 112th annual Kansas City, Kan., Firefighter’s Relief Association Ball.
Butters is credited with saving the life of a parent the afternoon of May 10 at Our Lady of Unity School in Kansas City, Kan., where Nancy Butters is principal.
Parent volunteer Teresa Ortega, 39, was sitting with other volunteers, Nancy said, when she collapsed.
“She just kind of fell out of her chair,” Nancy said. “We didn’t know what had happened.”
She called out to Bob, who was farther away on the playground.
“I could hear the urgency in her voice,” Bob said.
Ortega’s husband had already started chest compressions, and Bob began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
He checked for a pulse, he said, and found none. Then he heard her begin agonal breathing, the “death rattle” as it is more commonly known, and he knew she was critical.
Moving the husband to one side, Bob began intense chest compressions. Nancy was already on the phone to paramedics, relaying Bob’s imperative information to the emergency team on its way.
Other parent volunteers dropped to their knees in the freshly laid mulch, according to a report in The Leaven Catholic newspaper, and began prayers.
When a civilian is nominated for the prestigious award, Capt. Patrick Dunn, president of the firefighters association said, a thorough investigation of events takes place.
“He was nominated by one of the paramedics,” Dunn said, adding that the award is for firefighters or other people who have done something extraordinary or something above and beyond the call of duty.
Bob’s award carries the results of that investigation, and reads:
“On May 10, 2014, at approximately 3:02 p.m., pumper 17 and EMS Unit 17 responded to 2646 S. 34th Street to the parish center on an apparent cardiac arrest.
“Upon arrival, the crews found off-duty Assistant Police Chief for the Osawatomie, Kansas, Police Department, Robert M. Butters, who had immediately initiated and performed continuous CPR on the cardiac arrest patient.
“While performing CPR, Officer Butters informed and gave the crew of Pumper 17 pertinent medical background information which assisted with patient care. Upon taking over CPR efforts, the firefighters on scene continued to receive assistance from Officer Butters as he helped gather equipment and assisted with moving the patient to the awaiting ambulance as they continued CPR.
“It is the firm belief of KCKFD crews on the scene that without the life-saving efforts of Officer Butters, the patient would not have survived. It should be known that Assistant Chief Butters is a native of Kansas City, Kansas, and grew up in KCK.
“For his willingness to step forward and act to save someone’s life under a very difficult and stressful set of circumstances, Assistant Chief Robert M. Butters is hereby presented the Civilian Award of Merit.”
For Bob and other volunteers on the scene, some relief came a few minutes after emergency crews had placed Ortega in the ambulance.
“We’ve got her back,” a paramedic called to the crowd from the back of the ambulance.
Ortega’s crisis was caused by a defect in her heart, according to the Leaven, that she had probably had since birth. Her aorta had become strangled, blood flow stopped.
Surgery corrected the problem, and Nancy said she has completely recovered.
“I’m just no good in a crisis,” Nancy said, “but Bob was there and the other circumstances worked out.”
Just about 10 minutes before her collapse, Ortega had been working alone inside the building preparing food.
“If that had happened before she joined the group, she couldn’t have survived,” Nancy said.
The Butters brought six of their children to the award presentation held at the Kansas National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kan.
Dylan, 17, Darla, 18, Hannah, 15, Delena, 9, and twins Noah and Nathan, 6, all knew their father was a hero.
The younger ones had been at the school May 10 when Ortega collapsed.
“It kind of scared me,” Nathan said.
“Dad saved a girl,” Noah said.
“We need him around the house because if we choke on something he can save us,” Delena said.
In accepting the award, Butters brushed aside his own actions, commending the efficiency of the emergency responders and praising his wife for her part in communications under stress.
“I can’t do much,” Nancy had said earlier in the evening, refusing Bob’s insistence that she had been a key part of the team, “but I can make a phone call.”