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Rewarded for Duty

Local award recipients reflect on life-saving tasks.

Fairfax County Firefighter and medic Jason Buttenshaw, 33, had been preparing for months for the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon and had landed himself with another firefighter from Maryland in the first wave of a total of 34,000 runners to take off. But just 200 yards into the 26-mile run, his hobby had to take a backseat to duty.

Buttenshaw looked over to see a man on the ground in the midst of a seizure. In seconds, his training as a lifesaver clicked and he quickly approached the Marines who had been shielding the man until medics could arrive.

Identifying himself to the Marines as a paramedic, Buttenshaw began reviewing the man's condition.

"I was concerned that he had been seizing so long that his heart may have stopped," Buttenshaw said. "When we recognize someone under cardiac arrest, it's just default back to training — it becomes second nature and something takes over."

Realizing the situation could quickly become deadly, Buttenshaw and the other firefighter performed CPR for about 15 minutes before medics were able to arrive on the scene. Once they did, Buttenshaw assisted with administering a defibrillator until the man regained a pulse.

After the man was transported out of the area, Buttenshaw joined back together with the other firefighter — and finished the marathon.

"For months now I've been training, and I wasn't going to let a little something like that stop me from," running the marathon, he said.

WHILE IT MAY not have been a big deal for him, it was for the man he saved and also for the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, who awarded Buttenshaw, a seven-year veteran of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue based out of Vienna's station two, with their Lifesaving Award at their annual Valor Awards earlier this month.

The award may be flattering, Buttenshaw said, but being rewarded for doing one's job still sits as a bit foreign to him.

"This was just how I was raised, you try and help your fellow man," he said. "I don't think I did anything that all of the guys here [at Fairfax County Fire and Rescue] wouldn't have done in the same situation."

Buttenshaw isn't alone in Vienna with his accolades nor his opinion that it is all part of the day's work.

Vienna Police Department Sgt. Jamie Smith and officer Jarod Evans were awarded with the Lifesaving Award after they saved a young woman's life last September. Responding to a late-night call, the two officers were able to save the woman, who had overdosed on heroin and cocaine, by administering CPR and keeping her breathing until paramedics could arrive.

"I didn't even think about it as it was happening," Smith, who has received first-responders' training, said. "They say you're a product of your training and when you react without thinking it's a direct result of good training — and I think that's what happened here."

And while it's nice to get recognized, Smith said that doing one's job is the far greater reward.

"It felt better when I walked out of there, knowing that she was going to live," Smith said. "The award was nice, but I get far more satisfaction out of that."

THE THREE were not the only Vienna public servants recognized at this month's Valor Awards.

Vienna police officer Trent Nelson, who was called to the scene of a man having a heart attack on an afternoon last May, and ultimately used his training to help save the man's life, was awarded the Lifesaving Award. Vienna police officer Christopher Shaver and Sgt. Michael Reeves were awarded with Valor Awards for their part in stopping a suicidal man from stabbing himself in the stomach.

Reeves was able to deploy a Taser to immobilize the disoriented and suicidal man, putting him under control until medics could arrive.

"It's unfortunate that something like that happens, but you try and see the good in it," Reeves said. "The man ended up surviving."

Receiving recognition for one's actions is always appreciated, but is hardly ever a motivating factor for police officers, Reeves said.

"It's a great feeling, it's a very prestigious award. It definitely makes you feel good about yourself," Reeves said. "But the best thing that ultimately came out of it is that the guy didn't hurt himself."

"He needed some help so we came in. It's just a part of the job."