By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The road was packed with people leaving work and others heading out for Christmas shopping the last weekend before Christmas. A slight wind made it feel like 20 degrees outside and Senior Airman Deborah Sosa, 21st Medical Operations Squadron, was staying warm, waiting in traffic on her way home after a day of work at the Peterson Women’s Health Center. Moments later — with a move of her head — her day would take a turn for the hectic.
It was Dec. 18 and Sosa saw a woman convulsing on the side of the road. She stopped her vehicle, moved the woman from the road, cleared her airway and covered her to combat hypothermia. Sosa directed a bystander to call 911 and stayed with her until emergency help arrived, likely saving her life.
“I just got off work and was at the stop light at Airport and Chelton — there was a lot of traffic,” Sosa said. “I turned my head a little and saw a lady lying on the side of the road. She was barefoot and convulsing. Her head was out in the street.”
That’s when Sosa’s training kicked in. She was deployed and trained with the Army for a joint expeditionary tasking assignment, which when coupled with her Air Force experience allowed her to react quickly under pressure.
“My (Joint Expeditionary) tasking was a really big part of it,” Sosa said. “I just reacted. I felt confident getting out of the car with all my training. Before I would not have got out, I wouldn’t have known what to do.”
When she got to the woman Sosa noticed she had vomit in her mouth and continued to convulse. She made sure the scene was safe, moved the woman from the road and cleared her airway. Sosa turned the woman onto her side, removing her own coat and placing it on the patient to keep her warm. She directed a man who was watching the scene unfold to call 911.
The woman continued to convulse and though Sosa repeatedly tried to talk to her, remained unresponsive. Sosa stayed, comforting and keeping the woman stable until an ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later.
“As soon as I looked over and saw her I got out. I put my car in park and turned on my emergency flashers. I wasn’t going to waste any time,” Sosa said. “I wasn’t going to let somebody die on the side of the road and just leave her there. What if it was my mom or someone I knew?”
Her quick off-base action did not go unnoticed by leadership. Senior Master Sgt. Carlos Ramos, 21st Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, was pleased with her response to the emergency.
“To me this was a situation where the Airman went above and beyond. I felt she really defined what the Air Force core value of integrity is all about. It’s about doing the right thing when nobody is looking,” Ramos said. “In her case she could have easily continued to drive to her final destination that afternoon but decided against that. She noticed someone who needed help and as a Good Samaritan, she took action.”
Others may be impressed, proud or even surprised by what Sosa did that cold December day, but she is not one of them.
“I’m glad I was there. What if nobody stopped?” Sosa said. “But then it’s my job, what I was trained to do. It felt good to make a difference, but I kind of felt like I was doing my job too.”
After emergency personnel arrived and took over, Sosa never heard what became of the barefoot woman whose life was in danger on the side of a busy road that day. She wonders what became of her and what it was that caused her to be in the situation that caused their paths to cross. The truth is she will probably never know.
When her part of the whirlwind of events that changed her typical drive home was over and she headed back to the warmth and safety of her vehicle, one more thing happened that remains with Sosa months later.
“The guy that stopped, who called 911, said ‘Good job Airman,’” Sosa said. “That made me smile. Then I called my dad and told him.”