by Senior Airman
Melissa B. White
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
KANDAHAR AIRIELD, Afghanistan — Medics from the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing responded under pressure to provide Self-Aid and Buddy Care to a critical patient during a recent attack against Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Being in the right place at the right time allowed the team of four medical Airmen, including one deployed from the 21st Space Wing, to provide immediate assistance to a critically wounded patient, giving him the chance to receive more advanced care to increase his chances of survival.
“I heard a blast and I thought it was something outside,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jason Hayes, 451st AEW Clinic physician. “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,” said Doctor Hayes.
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.
Staff Sgt. Justin Mares, 451st AEW medical technician, helped apply a tourniquet while Staff Sgt. Alisa Picena, 451st AEW NCO in charge of the clinic, applied direct pressure to the chest wound. Master Sgt. Darren Crisp, 451st AEW medical logistics technician, made himself available to help by collapsing a table to be used as a litter in the meantime.
Sergeant Picena deployed from the 21st Medical Group at Peterson AFB.
While the others worked to control the bleeding, Doctor Hayes worked with an Army and another service medic to improve the patient’s breathing. They used a needle decompression kit to allow his lung to expand. The doctor then told one of the medics to insert a nasopharyngeal airway, and at that point, the patient came around and started moving and talking.
“You have no idea the relief, because, 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.”
Eventually the team was able to transfer 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 to hold him using anything on our bodies just to get him out of there,” said Sergeant Picena.
Once they got him out of the building, the team started reassessing 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 behind at the scene to provide first aid and comfort to those who needed it 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,” said Doctor Hayes. “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. With these life-saving tactics and their advanced medical techniques, they saved a life. If medics would not have been present, any other Airman could have stepped forward and put their SABC training to use and given the patient a fighting chance to live.
“This definitely puts into perspective how important SABC training is,” said Doctor Hayes. “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.”