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    Flight medics treat 'lucky' vehicle crash victim

    Flight medics treat 'lucky' vehicle crash victim

    Photo By Master Sgt. David Loeffler | Sgt. Joshua Smithee, left, Sgt. Jessica Shelley and Sgt. Julian Ross, far right,...... read more read more



    Story by Brandon Honig 

    California National Guard   

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A motorcyclist in Sacramento was rear-ended by a sedan, thrown into its windshield, tossed in the air and slammed to the pavement June 6. And he considered himself lucky.

    “Over and over again, when I said I was an Army paramedic, he said, ‘Well, I guess I got pretty lucky,’” remembered Sgt. Jessica Shelley, a flight paramedic with Detachment 1, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, who was at the scene of the accident when it happened.

    The patient was experiencing what Sgt. Joshua Smithee called the “Groundhog Day” effect, referring to the movie in which Bill Murray lives the same day over and over again.

    “He was alert and oriented and talking to us and could answer certain questions we asked to see where he was mentally. Then he would stop and pause and ask, ‘What happened?’” said Smithee, who is also a flight medic. “He’d ask a question, and we would answer it. Then he would ask the same question a few minutes later.”

    Other than his obvious disorientation, the patient was exhibiting no signs of major injury. But the Soldiers of the 2-135th, who happened to be conducting a physical fitness test on the road near their Mather Airfield home when the accident happened, were taking no chances.

    Immediately upon witnessing the accident, Smithee ran to the motorcyclist while simultaneously directing two Soldiers to block traffic. Without removing the motorcyclist’s helmet, Smithee, who is a civilian firefighter EMT, stabilized the patient’s head to prevent any further neck injury. He instructed Spc. Amy Dalton to stabilize the patient’s back.

    “It’s weird,” Smithee said, “when I’m in training, I stress a little bit. But in a real-life emergency, a calm comes over you, and you do what you gotta do. You don’t think of what’s happening—you just think of making the person safe and getting them the best treatment possible.”

    Shelley, meanwhile, cut the patient’s pants and jacket with a pair of scissors provided by Sgt. Julian Ross and examined the patient for injuries. Ross had been parked in his car, cheering on the Soldiers performing their fitness test, when the accident occurred.

    Ross grabbed a medical bag from his car, handed it to Shelley, who is a licensed paramedic, and began tending to the other patient at the scene—the driver of the Honda Accord that had struck the motorcycle.

    “[The driver] was a little disoriented and not quite sure what had happened. He tried to get out of the car immediately, and Ross told him to stay in the vehicle, which keeps the spine in a neutral position,” Shelley said. “It’s best, if the car’s not on fire, to keep them from walking around. If the patient’s in shock, they may have injuries and not know it … and by walking around cause more injury.”

    Both patients were fortunate the medics were nearby, and Shelley said the motorcyclist was especially lucky that he landed on the driver’s side of the car rather than tumbling out into traffic.

    “It was a perfect mesh,” Shelley said of the team of Soldiers that responded. “Everybody jumped in, and not much was said as everybody took on their roles and responsibilities for the patient.”

    When first responders arrived, they transferred the motorcyclist to a backboard, removed his helmet, applied a cervical collar and transported him by ground to the hospital. The California Guard Soldiers left the next day for annual training at Camp Roberts, California, and never learned the identity or condition of their patients, though Smithee said it was a good sign that the paramedics did not call for a helicopter to transport the motorcyclist.

    “In my profession, you don’t always find out [the status of a patient],” he said. “You just go on with the job.”

    Shelley said she had been inspired to do the job of a paramedic because if one is passionate about the job and is on their “A-game,” it can save a life.

    “If someone didn’t have the same passion for the job or wasn’t on their A-game, it might have a different outcome,” she said. “But Sgt. Smithee and Sgt. Ross and the other people I work with all have the same passion to do what’s best for the patient.”

    On the day of the accident, Shelley had just returned from Texas, where she attended an Army paramedic course that was inspired by the success of Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment. Shelley’s unit and Company C are collectively known as the California Army National Guard’s Task Force Medevac.

    “The Army, as a result of Charlie Company’s deployment to Afghanistan, found out that the survivability of patients in deployed countries is greater when you have paramedics working on them,” she said. “Before, Army flight medics were basically ground medics trained to work in the back of an aircraft.”

    Charlie Company medics tracked all of their patients during their 2008 deployment. A study based on the resulting data, and later published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery in August 2012, showed that severely injured patients treated by Charlie Company were 66 percent more likely to survive the next 48 hours than those evacuated by other units.

    The study was persuasive enough to convince the Army to raise the minimum qualifications for flight medics, who now must complete a 55-week training course that produces licensed paramedics.

    “Our bread and butter of what makes us work really well is the abilities of our medics,” said Capt. Tyler Smentek, commander of Detachment 1, 2-135th. “Short of us not being in a helicopter that day [of the accident], we did exactly what we do every day. These guys reacted without hesitation, they needed no direction—they just went where they needed to be and immediately took action.”



    Date Taken: 07.30.2014
    Date Posted: 07.30.2014 20:03
    Story ID: 137783
    Location: SACRAMENTO, CA, US 

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