Police Honor Silver Spring Man for Saving a Life

Police Honor Silver Spring Man for Saving a Life

Used CPR on unconscious passenger on a public bus

| Published:
Police award

Alexander Vasilenko, second from right, was honored by Montgomery County police on Monday for performing CPR that helped save an unconscious man on a public bus. From left, Sgt. Sunyoung Kim, Officer Matthew Runkles, Vasilenko and 4th District Lt. Gerald McFarland

Photo by Hallie Kay

A Silver Spring man who used CPR to save a passenger’s life on a public bus was honored this week.

Montgomery County police gave Alexander Vasilenko a Commander’s Certificate of Appreciation on Monday. Officers who were involved in the call joined him.

The man who was saved did not attend the award presentation. Police did not identify him, other than to say he is 24 years old.

The passenger fell unconscious on a Montgomery County bus in Wheaton on Oct. 3.

Vasilenko, 56, was on the bus and saw that the man needed medical help.

“I recognized the pattern of this specific type of suffocation and knew instantaneously what to do.” he said. “I knew that he had seconds to live.”

Vasilenko said he has a background in science and medicine and knowledge of CPR.

At about 10:15 p.m. on Oct. 3, Officer Matthew Runkles was on patrol outside the Montgomery County 4th District station at Randolph Road near Georgia Avenue.

He said passengers on the bus flagged him down.

“I found [Vasilenko] doing CPR and joined him,” Runkles said.

Montgomery County police Sgt. Sunyoung Kim got to the scene shortly after. She also has a medical background and used an automated external defibrillator to assist until fire and rescue workers arrived on the scene.

Kim, Runkles and 4th District Lt. Gerald McFarland gave Vasilenko his award.

“He allowed first responders to get there, take over, and make a difference,” McFarland said.

Vasilenko is a scientist and researcher with a Ph.D. in cell biology. He has experience in institutions such as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, the University of Maryland in Baltimore and the University of Rhode Island.

He said his experience working with heart regeneration and traumatic brain injury allowed him to act swiftly and correctly in this situation.

Vasilenko said he had been involved in a situation like this before, intervening to help with CPR, but the person later died.

Kim said 911 dispatchers give basic CPR instructions over the phone. It’s “much less common” that someone at the scene knows what to do, Runkles said.

“The police do this every day,” Vasilenko said. “I have a great appreciation for all their work.”

He hopes this incident will encourage others with medical backgrounds or CPR certification to act quickly and try to help. “I want this to be educational for other people,” Vasilenko said.

According to McFarland, the man who Vasilenko saved is “happy and healthy.”

“This is a second chance for him,” Vasilenko said.

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