A Medford police officer handling paperwork at a roadside stop was in the right place at the right time to save the life of a 77-year-old woman Wednesday afternoon.

A Medford police officer handling paperwork at a roadside stop was in the right place at the right time to save the life of a 77-year-old woman Wednesday afternoon.

Officer Ralph Sartain was getting ready to impound a car in San George Estates at about 3 p.m Wednesday after its driver had been arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Suddenly, a man came running up from a home across the street, calling for help. He said his mother wasn't breathing.

"He ran to me screaming for help," Sartain said.

Sartain, who worked as a paramedic for Mercy Flights before becoming a Medford police officer in January 2000, raced to assist, quickly calling for emergency medical crews. He found the woman unconscious and breathing shallowly, choking on fluid collecting in her throat.

Sartain cleared her airway and propped her up to ease her labored breathing.

Sartain, who serves as paramedic on the department's SWAT team, hadn't grabbed the bag with extra medical gear that he usually carries while on patrol. However, he had the basic first-aid pack that all officers carry, and he used a breathing mask with a bag on it to force air into her lungs until ambulance and fire crews arrived to take over.

"It seemed like an eternity, but it was really only four to seven minutes," before both teams arrived and he stepped aside, he said.

The woman was rushed to a local hospital, where she was in intensive care Wednesday, Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said. Police declined to release the name of the woman or her son.

"We know DUII enforcement saves lives by getting impaired drivers off the road, but this one saved a life in another way," Doney said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.