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Officer's Just the Ticket

Meter Enforcer Saves Stricken Man's Life

October 03, 2002|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Motorists usually curse their bad luck when a parking enforcement officer suddenly pulls up from behind.

But a 61-year-old Los Feliz man can thank heaven that Los Angeles Parking Enforcement Officer Barbara Hartsfield came upon his idled truck Monday in the middle of a busy street in Silver Lake.

Hartsfield found the man unconscious and slumped over in the front seat of his Ford pickup, an apparent heart-attack victim. The quick-thinking officer determined that the man had no pulse and was not breathing. She performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived to whisk the man to a hospital where he is recovering and expected to survive.

Now Hartsfield, 46, is being dubbed a hero for her life-saving performance.

"If she wasn't there, this guy would probably be dead," said Los Angeles Fire Department Engineer Ed Gallagher, who was among the emergency crew that came to the scene Monday morning to treat the ailing motorist.

"She went way beyond the call of duty," he said.

As she walked through the offices of her parking enforcement headquarters in Hollywood on Wednesday, Hartsfield was congratulated by colleagues and praised by supervisors.

"We call her our hero," said Los Angeles Parking Enforcement Capt. Andrea Fernandez, Hartsfield's boss.

Firefighters said the man, whose name was withheld pending family notification, is being treated at the intensive-care unit of Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. But he had gained enough strength to call firefighters Wednesday to thank them for their help, Gallagher said.

Hartsfield, a five-year department veteran and a former 911 operator, learned that the man survived only on Wednesday. "I think it's wonderful that he is OK," she said.

The rescue began when Hartsfield was called to relieve a colleague who was directing traffic around an automobile accident on Hyperion Avenue near Myra Avenue in Silver Lake. Hartsfield went to the traffic scene, but then told her colleague she needed to take a quick bathroom break. As she left the scene, Hartsfield came upon a Ford pickup stopped in the middle of the road, straddling two lanes.

She walked up to the truck and found the man slumped behind the wheel, his lips blue and his eyes half open. Hartsfield, a mother of two, said she learned CPR to be prepared for emergencies involving her children. She didn't expect to use the skill for work, and it's not required for the job.

Hartsfield laid the man flat on the truck seat and began performing CPR, using her hand-held radio to call for help. A doctor who happened to be passing by assisted Hartsfield briefly until paramedics arrived. Once help arrived, Hartsfield said, she began directing traffic around the scene.

There was more good news for the heart attack victim: He was not cited for illegally parking in a traffic lane.

"Contrary to popular belief, we don't just come upon a double-parked car and whip out our ticket book," Hartsfield said with a laugh.

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