By Master Sgt. Kristian Carter, 433rd Airlift Wing
/ Published September 21, 2018
A reserve aeromedical evacuation crew from the 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron with the 433rd Airlift Wing, San Antonio, Texas, gathers at the airport after saving a life on a commercial flight.
A reserve aeromedical evacuation crew from the 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron with the 433rd Airlift Wing, San Antonio, Texas, was flying to support patient transport missions out of Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland when they came together to save the life of a man suspected of having a heart attack Sept. 19, 2018.
About 45 minutes into the commercial flight from Dallas to Maryland a 74-year-old man sitting next to Staff Sgt. April Hinojos, an aeromedical evacuation technician, complained to his wife that he felt faint.
Hinojos heard this and asked the man some questions to gauge how he was feeling. She said the man’s eyelids started to flutter, and he stopped responding. Hinojos immediately got assistance moving him to the floor and evaluating his condition.
“He didn’t have a pulse, so we immediately started (chest) compressions,” said Hinojos.
The man’s wife started yelling for a doctor.
“I had just started the movie and through my headphones I hear someone screaming for help,” said Maj. Carolyn Stateczny, flight nurse. She thought, “Screaming for a doctor means something is going on.”
The pilot came over the intercom, and asked if any medical personnel were on the plane.
The rest of the aeromedical evacuation crew, which was scattered throughout the plane, started working their way to Hinojos and the man.
The flight attendants assisted Stateczny by collecting the plane’s medical supplies for the medical crew. Stateczny then got the automated external defibrillator from the flight attendants and prepared it for use. Flight nurse, Capt. Justin Stein attempted to start the man on intravenous fluids, but was unable, because his blood vessels were constricted due to the suspected heart attack.
Tech. Sgts. Robert Kirk and Edgar Ramirez, both aeromedical evacuation technicians, worked on the man’s airway and provided oxygen. 1st Lt. Laura Maldonado, a flight nurse, assisted the rest of the crew by working with the flight attendants and providing supplies as needed. At this point, the crew was unsure if the man was going to recover.
“I’ve been a nurse for sixteen years; in my expertise, I thought he was dead.” Said Stateczny. “He was completely grayish, his lips were blue, and his eyes had rolled to the back of his head. He was not responding at all. He had no pulse.”
The man’s wife was very distraught throughout the ordeal, so the crew requested that she be moved to the rear of the plane, so they could gather the man’s medical information from her.
Stateczny requested that the plane land so the man could get required medical attention.
After getting the automated external defibrillator pads on the man, Stateczny said he moaned, developed a pulse and started to show signs of recovery. They continued with oxygen and kept trying to start an IV.
“He slowly started arousing,” said Statezcny. “It took some time, and he could tell us his name. He started getting some color, and then asked ‘What’s going on?’” The man thought he had just passed out.
Before the incident, flight attendants had begun passing out beverages to the passengers. Now, the plane had to land, and the carts had to be stowed. This required the medical crew to move the man. They got him to his feet to move him back to the rear of the plane and prepared him for landing.
The plane diverted to Little Rock, Ark, where emergency medical services were waiting to take over patient care.
The aeromedical evacuation squadron members serve in a variety of careers such as nurses, medical technicians, administrative specialists and more. The 433rd AES is ready to fill the need when events like natural disasters, war or routine medical transportation by air is required. AES crews typically consist of five people, two nurses and three medical technicians. The crew carries with them the necessary equipment to turn any cargo aircraft in the Air Force into a flying ambulance almost instantly.