On Labor Day 2019, Lower Valley firefighter paramedic Adam Compton was responding to a head-on collision on Colorado Highway 139 when the engine he was driving broke down. Minutes later, he was treating a patient from the crash, performing life-saving measures in the back of a pickup that happened to drive by the wreck.
Compton was able to stabilize the man, who had multiple broken bones, suspected neck and back injuries and was in shock from blood loss, before getting him in the back of an ambulance to safety.
It was not the ideal place for treatment, which Compton began by securing the patient’s airway, starting intravenous lines and pain medication and splinting his legs and stabilizing his neck and back injuries.
After what he estimated was around 15-20 minutes, Compton and other paramedics carefully moved the patient from the back of the pickup to the back of the ambulance. His quick actions during that critical window likely saved the man’s life.
On Thursday, Compton was recognized for his life-saving work, receiving an award from the Western Slope Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3981 before the Lower Valley Fire District board meeting.
The VFW selects emergency medical technicians, law enforcement and firefighter personnel to receive VFW Public Servant Awards. Each year the VFW selects candidates to be submitted to the VFW National Headquarters and Compton was among the names submitted this year.
“Post 3981 doesn’t submit a candidate every year,” Post Cmdr. Len Ladue said. “(This is) our way of recognizing Adam for his exemplary service to humanity by administering emergency medical assistance.”
Compton was presented with a Certificate of Commendation on Thursday, and also with a gift card to a local restaurant.
“You don’t expect to be awarded, but it’s nice,” Compton said. “It just feels like I’m doing my job and it’s my responsibility to take care of people.”
Compton said he’d always been interested in going into a career in the medical field as both his parents were in health care. He said he prepares and trains for all kinds of situations but this one was unique.
“It was the first time I’ve ever taken care of a patient on the back of a truck before,” he said.
Compton was born and raised in Fruita and after graduating with a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from Colorado State University, he completed his paramedic program through a University of Utah program in Grand Junction.
Compton said he loves providing medical care and service as a firefighter to the community he was raised in and that his family now calls home.
He was recommended for the award by Lower Valley Fire Chief Frank Cavaliere.
In his speech before presenting Compton with the award, Cavaliere said Compton “took control of the scene” on Sept. 5, immediately recognizing that the victim was gravely injured, and quickly triaged and started treatment.
“Normally a patient with such serious injuries would take three emergency medical personnel to provide the same level of care,” Cavaliere said.
According to Cavaliere, Compton saved the man’s life that day.
“Firefighter paramedic Adam Compton was able to provide this level of care alone on the side of the road with a limited amount of equipment and supplies. If not for the quick actions of Adam, this man would not be alive today.”