By Senior Airman Rose Gudex
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Typical weekends in Colorado often finds family and friends taking hiking trips, mountain biking, going fishing or doing other recreational adventures. On the way back from a recent fishing trip, a few friends wound up at a Colorado Springs barbeque hotspot — Rudy’s.
It was after leaving the restaurant that the lazy Sunday drive July 17 turned into a race to save a complete stranger’s life. Staff Sgt. Corey Czajka, 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron independent duty medical technician, was driving home with his wife and coworker Staff Sgt. Shandy Villani when a vehicle plowed into the intersection, broadsiding the car directly in front of theirs.
While the whole scene unfolded in mere seconds, he said it was like watching it happen in slow motion. The impact, the car being pushed through the intersection, the spin, the rollover and ultimately the car landed on its driver side.
“You could feel it — it was like a shotgun blast,” he said. “We saw all the airbags go off in the car and we saw smoke billowing out.”
The brief moment it took for all that to happen passed and Czajka immediately sprang to action. He said he parked his vehicle in the median and ran to the overturned vehicle. His medical training kicked in while he accessed the woman’s injuries. There was blood all over, but she was alert and conscious.
“We stabilized the car because it had rolled and was shaky,” he said. “I didn’t want to move her because of a (possible critical spine injury), but there was smoke that we didn’t know where it was coming from, so another guy that came to help pulled her out of the passenger side of the vehicle.”
The woman was carefully moved to the sidewalk at the edge of the road where Czajka immediately began spine stabilization. He asked her questions to gauge how coherent she was and monitored vital signs until Colorado Springs paramedics arrived.
The paramedics recognized the medical expertise and care given to the patient and welcomed the assistance as they prepared her for the trip to the hospital. Czajka said they continued to help for as long as it took, although in reality the time went by fast.
Even though Czajka has worked in the medical field for a while and spent three years in an emergency room, he said this was still one of the most hard-hitting accidents he’s seen. Even with the intensity of the scene, the training kicked in and he automatically did what he had to do.
“You didn’t have to think about it, you just did it.” he said. “It wasn’t an IDMT thing, it wasn’t a medic thing. What I did there was no more than what I teach in my (self-aid and buddy care) class.”
Czajka said, as a member of the military and a medic, he had a duty to act. Doing so alongside the paramedics of Colorado Springs demonstrated the importance of training and working well with a team.
IDMTs do more than just work at the clinic on base, he said. They are trained in emergency medicine, battlefield medicine, chronic care and more. No matter how much they train or the different scenarios they practice, nothing comes close to a real-world situation.
The extensive training received as an IDMT and the SABC knowledge every Airmen learns helped Czajka be a hero that day. Even though his selfless actions were lauded by many, he doesn’t think he did anything special that day.
“Am I a hero?” he said. “I think there are people who display the definition of ‘hero’ a lot better than what I did that day.”