Deputy who stopped active shooter later saved by UCLA's ECMO Team


On May 4, 2019, Jonathon Cosby, a 31-year-old Deputy for the Riverside County Sheriff, dutifully answered the call of an alleged shooting at the Desert Orthopedic Center at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. Deputy Cosby courageously defended his community as he engaged in an altercation with the armed suspect that resulted in the death of the assailant. To the shock of both Cosby and his partner, they discovered that the suspect’s car was filled with a number of weapons. Left unscathed, Cosby had prevented a potential mass casualty event with the help of his team.

In a twisted turn of events, the same way Deputy Cosby was able to quickly respond and serve his community, in-turn he received the same attention to care and quick response to save his life.

Jonathan was the embodiment of health and fitness before experiencing an atypical heart attack. Photos courtesy of Edith Orosco

Weeks after the incident, the young county deputy continued his daily routine. Cosby was the embodiment of health and fitness. However, on a typical day at the gym with his girlfriend, Edith Orosco, his world was rocked as he experienced an atypical heart attack. The couple had been training when Cosby began experiencing chest pains. Having never experienced any symptoms or signs of heart problems, Cosby chalked it up to bad indigestion.

Despite his girlfriend’s worrisome pleas for him to go to the emergency room, Cosby refuted. That was until they got home and things went from bad to worst.

He went from slight discomfort to full-blown chest pains and was sweating profusely”, said Edith, who was at his side during his ordeal. “I knew he needed to get to the hospital right away.”

Edith rushed Cosby to a nearby medical center in Palm Desert where the news was grim. Cosby had suffered a sudden heart attack as a result of a critical blockage of his coronary artery—a condition known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

The blockage was so severe that it had caused his heart to stop and required 30 minutes of CPR to get his heart pumping again.

Cosby had suffered a sudden heart attack as a result of a spontaneous coronary artery dissection. Photos courtesy of Edith Orosco

Although doctors were able to skillfully open the coronary artery to remove the blockage, so much fluid had accumulated in his lungs that he could not be oxygenated with a breathing tube. Cosby’s doctors and family prepared for the worst.

Running out of options and time, doctors contacted the team at UCLA for ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a highly advanced treatment that provides temporary heart and lung support reserved for the “sickest of the sick”. The ECMO machine works like an artificial heart and lung pump to circulate oxygenated blood throughout the body. Doctors quickly agreed that this was Cosby’s only chance of survival.

Jonathon wasn’t expected to survive the helicopter ride to UCLA due to his deteriorating condition and challenges involved with transporting him. Desperate to save his life and understanding the risks involved, his family consented to airlift him to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with critically low oxygen levels.

Cosby was airlifted him Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with critically low oxygen levels. Photos courtesy of Edith Orosco

Upon Cosby’s arrival, the ECMO team jumped into action. Led by Dr. Peyman Benharash, director of the UCLA for ECMO Program, and composed of a multidisciplinary group of cardiologists, surgeons, certified critical care nurses, intensivists, pulmonologists, perfusionists and respiratory therapists, they worked quickly to stabilize Cosby and immediately placed him on ECMO.

Within moments of the ECMO treatment, Cosby began to stabilize and gradually improve. On Mother’s Day, nearly two weeks after being hospitalized, Jonathan woke up and was able to squeeze his mother’s hand. From day one, Jonathan’s family knew they were in the right place for his treatment and care.

The moment we came to UCLA Medical Center we were given hope right away”, said Sandy Ricks, Jonathan’s mother. “The team was there for us every step of the way, educating us on Jonathan’s condition, offering us emotional support, and making us feel like part of the team. Their positive spirit helped get us through the darkest times.”

Sandy Ricks, Jonathan's mother, recalls the experience as she shows an image of Jonathan's hand before ECMO treatment at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

Although Cosby required dialysis and intensive care following his ordeal, his recovery is a remarkable one.

“It is extremely gratifying to see a young patient such as Jonathan, who suffered from cardiac arrest and the failure of many organs, experience a complete recovery due to our teamwork and the miracle of ECMO.” said Dr. Benharash.

Today, he is on his way to a complete recovery thanks to this advanced technology and the incredible support and expertise of the ECMO team. Deputy Cosby is back at the gym working his way back to normal, in addition to the ongoing therapy he is receiving. He hopes to return to his post as a community servant by next year.

Dr. Benharash and Jonathan Cosby