TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla --
Two Airmen deployed with First Air Force (1AF)’s 64th Air Expeditionary Group (AEG) in support of federal COVID-19 response efforts aided a motorcyclist following a collision on May 22, 2021, in Pine Township, Ind. The Airmen were off-duty from the state-led, federally supported Roosevelt High School Community Vaccination Center and returning from a leisure trip to Michigan City, Ind. when they came across the scene of the accident involving a truck and a motorcycle.
According to 1st Lt. Sagan Barber, a Wisner, Nebraska native and clinical nurse with the 60th Healthcare Operations Squadron stationed at Travis Air Force Base, Cal., and Senior Airman Rylee Hatch, a Vestal, N.Y. native and medical technician with the 87th Medical Group stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., the patient was accepting and appreciative of their care.
Police and firefighters were at the scene when Hatch introduced herself and Barber as a “medic and a nurse here to help.” Barber said as she was assessing the injured rider, Hatch quickly utilized collected supplies. Barber began to address the head wound that was bleeding while Hatch worked to keep the patient stable.
“[The police and firefighters] let us kind of run the show, so we took care of the patient,” Barber said.
Although Barber and Hatch identified themselves as medical providers, neither the police nor the firefighters knew that Barber or Hatch were U.S. Air Force personnel. Without the uniform, only the expertise of these medical professionals was identifiable. By the way they controlled the situation, calmed down their patient, and saw to his wounds, Barber said it was undeniable that they were professionals and helped someone in need.
“Through my experience being prior enlisted, and now an officer as a nurse, you do experience a lot of high-stress situations,” Barber said. “As nurses in the Air Force, we train quite a bit, especially for trauma, so I just fell back on the things that I know. The basics are the best policy, and even just doing a little bit can go a long way.”
Barber has been in the Air Force for 14 years. She is currently on her third deployment as a medical professional, her first being to Qatar, where she assisted patients flown from Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. The military personnel she assisted were oftentimes in stable condition but needed more care. Severe medical conditions such as missing limbs or excessive bleeding are some things she has a lot of experience handling.
With three years in the military, Hatch is still new to this medical profession. While she has gone through ample training to become a medical technician, this was a new experience for her.
“This was the first real trauma that I have ever seen in a real-life scenario,” Hatch said. “Being a medic, you’re trained for that situation, you’re constantly ready for that situation, but actually taking what you learned and applying it is something completely different.”
Although it was her first actual trauma patient, Hatch did not hesitate when she saw the victim on the side of the road.
“We were probably two minutes into the drive when I noted that there was some type of vehicle collision,” Hatch said. “I automatically noticed a person on the side of the road with a bystander holding a blood-soaked towel to his head, so I asked our driver to pull over.”
As soon as they were on the scene, Hatch said she found gloves for herself and Barber and continued to collect materials from an available first aid kit; including gauze, compression wraps, and bandages. Meanwhile, Barber collected vital medical history information from the patient. Once the paramedics arrived, both Airmen helped load the patient into the ambulance.
“Being able to help him and assist him in the way that he needed it to be, this will definitely be one of those memories that sticks,” Hatch said.
Although this was an immediate and risky situation, this is not the first time that Hatch and Barber have helped save lives. It is part of their everyday jobs as medical providers, particularly now that they are helping to administer the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine.
“Something out there made us be in the right place at the right time, and just being able to help him was amazing,” Hatch said.
Having that training and using it in a professional setting is one thing, but Hatch and Barber went out of their way to help someone while they were off-duty. This is especially risky in a state they were both unfamiliar with, and possible laws and regulations that could have put them at risk for helping a victim if they did not want to receive care.
However, Indiana has the Indiana Good Samaritan law that protects people like Barber and Hatch who stop to help someone who needs medical care after an accident. Barber, knowing this, made sure to have another Airman look up the Good Samaritan Law to be safe because she did not want to put her Airman at risk.
“I just fell back on understanding you just have to take a deep breath and take it one step at a time,” Barber said. “It definitely felt really good to be able to help somebody and then also just to be able to use my skills and training to help in any way I can.”
According to Hatch and Barber, the patient was accepting and appreciative of their care. Hatch and Barber will continue to provide vaccinations at the Roosevelt High School Community Vaccination Center until their mission is complete.
(The contents of this article are attributed to SPC Laurie Ellen Schubert).