Deployed 10th ABW medic saves critically injured patient
By Senior Airman Melissa B. White, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 01, 2011
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- A medic deployed from the Air Force Academy's 10th Medical Group responded under pressure to provide Self-Aid and Buddy Care to a patient in critical condition during a recent attack against Kandahar Airfield.
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jason Hayes, a 451st AEW Clinic physician, was part of a four-Airman team that provided immediate assistance, giving their patient the chance to receive more advanced care and increasing the patient's chance of survival.
"I heard a blast and I thought it was something outside," Dr. Hayes said. "The doors had blown open, I saw dust coming in ... I was kind of trying to make sense of what was going on ... and that's when the screaming started. At that point, I was thinking, somebody's hurt."
Then they heard cries for medics. Within seconds of the blast, the doctor and his team low-crawled through the billowing cloud of dust and made their way behind a half-wall into a little alcove where they were needed.
"The guy was clearly unconscious. He was making short, inefficient gasps for air, and I actually thought he was dying right there," Doctor Hayes said.
When making their assessment, the team noticed the patient had a large sucking chest wound, was bleeding from his right ear, and had a significant amount of pooled blood on the right upper thigh.
Medical technician Staff Sgt. Justin Mares helped apply a tourniquet while Staff Sgt. Alisa Picena, NCO in charge of the clinic, applied direct pressure to the chest wound. Master Sgt. Darren Crisp, a medical logistics technician, collapsed a table so the team could use it as a litter.
While the others worked to control the bleeding, Dr. Hayes worked with other medics to improve the patient's breathing, using a needle decompression kit to allow the patient's lung to expand. The doctor told one of the medics to insert a nasopharyngeal airway, and at that point, the patient came around and started moving and talking, much to Dr. Hayes' relief.
"At that point, I was still thinking he would die," the doctor said. "As soon as he was able to get his name out, I knew he had his head about him ... and he was OK."
The team eventually transferred the patient from the table to a real litter, but they still had to improvise and think on their feet during the stressful situation.
"Once we got him stable and got him on the litter, people started taking off their belts to strap him down (and) to hold him using anything on our bodies just to get him out of there," Sergeant Picena said.
Once they got him out of the building, the team reassessed the patient and prepared him for transportation to the hospital. They loaded him in a vehicle and traveled with lights and sirens to the hospital.
From that moment, a trauma team at the hospital took the patient's care into their hands, but the 451st AEW medics still found ways to help. Some stayed at the scene to provide first aid and comfort, while the doctor and Sergeant Mares stayed at the hospital to help patients who walked into the emergency room.
"I remember during this time ... Sergeant Crisp, a loggie with no medical training whatsoever, in the middle of us helping hold the guy down. I saw Sergeant Picena with a stunned look on her face because she was holding pressure, trying to find that wound, cutting away clothes, trying to find where the bleeding was coming from. Sergeant Mares was down there holding his legs, giving me reports of pulses," Dr. Hayes recalled. "I didn't have to tell them we need to help -- somebody needs help. I showed up, (my team) was there; they just did it instinctively while everyone else was running out of the building. Talk about service before self, I'm so proud of them."
Though this team was a group of specialists, most of what they did was something every Airman learns as part of SABC training.
"This definitely puts into perspective how important SABC training is," Dr. Hayes said. "It's always important to learn the basics and it's good to know in situations like that. Just with SABC, he may still have made it to the hospital alive."