FORT HUACHUCA, AZ, UNITED STATES
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. - December 2014 found a father-son duo on an extended hike that almost turned deadly in the Dragoon Mountains near Fort Huachua, Arizona.
Thanks to the diligence and hard work of then-14-year-old Jacob Staggs, Lt. Col. Robert Staggs, chief of primary care at the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center and Jacob’s father, made it safely down the trail and later to medical aid.
As a salute to Jacob’s efforts, the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center Medical Company presented him a Certificate of Appreciation for Patriotic Civilian Service in a ceremony at the health center May 21.
“It’s weird knowing that I did something so major and that I possibly saved his life,” said Jacob. “[This award] was really unexpected.”
Staggs began feeling the symptoms of a heart attack three-and-a-half miles into the hike, including chest pains, muscle cramps and fatigue. Assuming is was dehydration, Staggs suggested he and Jacob stop for a few moments to rest, eat and rehydrate.
Recovery would not be that easy, however. When his symptoms did not abate and without cellphone reception, the pair agreed to hike back down to the trailhead.
They had to descend 6,000 feet and more than three miles while, unbeknownst to either, Staggs suffered a heart attack.
When the approximately 20-pound pack Staggs was carrying began to feel closer to 50 pounds, he was forced to ask his son to carry the extra weight.
Jacob did more than carry the extra weight for his father.
“He was encouraging me the entire way out,” said Staggs. “Without that encouragement, that would have been tough. If I had to rest, he would wait on me and then encourage me to get back up.”
They stopped to rest and hydrate every 20-30 yards before finally making it back to their vehicle. Still not convinced he was having a heart attack, Staggs drove himself and his son home before finally conceding and calling emergency medical services.
In the face of a significant physical challenge and knowing his father was suffering a serious medical emergency, Jacob stayed strong.
“It [felt like] paranoia that something was wrong, but at the same time not letting myself succumb to that. [I had to] think positively and realize that it’s not really going to help me to think too much about it,” said Jacob.
“Obviously I’m proud of him,” said Staggs. “He stepped up in a mature way and was calm and [stuck] to his training. We went through wilderness survival, which covers heart attacks and wilderness medicine. We went through both of those courses and he utilized those skills.”
Staggs recently returned to full duty at the health center and was proudly present to see his son receive the award.
To learn more about how to spot the symptoms of a heart attack and what to do if you suspect a heart attack, visit heart.org.
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This work, Hero son receives award for saving father, by Lisa Tourtelot, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.