Arizona Air Guardsman’s lifesaving skills tested in foreign country

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

An Arizona Air National Guardsman provided life sustaining care to a child in medical distress while performing temporary duty here, July 18.

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing based in Phoenix were driving to a worksite during a Humanitarian Civic Assist mission when they drove by what appeared to be an accident on the side of a busy highway. Capt. Jessica Bunker, and about 20 civil engineers, were in the eastern European nation of Georgia to renovate orphanages.

“There was a huge crowd of people and then I saw everyone was gathered around a small child,” said Bunker, 161st Medical Group, operating room nurse. “I had the bus driver pull over; and then I ran out of the bus.”

As the Captain was exiting the vehicle, a fellow unit member, Tech. Sgt. Thomas Morga, 161st Civil Engineer Squadron, structural journeyman, followed with her emergency bag.

“When I arrived at the scene the first thing I did was find someone who spoke English and could translate,” said Bunker. “I identified myself as a nurse and asked the parents, through the translator, if I could perform care on their child and they literally handed him over to me.”

The child was sitting up hunched over. Bunker said her first priority was to get him flat and open his airway.

“They said he had just stopped breathing when I ran up,” said the captain. “He didn’t have a pulse, was white and his eyes had rolled to the back of his head. Once I had him flat, I compressed his chest; he gasped for air and started to breathe again. I kept his airway open, but he kept losing consciousness.”

While Bunker was performing care on the child, Morga provided crowd control as more than 15 concerned people had gathered by that point.

“I had to stay calm because the crowd was starting to panic and was getting super close,” said Bunker. “I was relying on Morga to keep them back.”

Through the impromptu translator, Bunker asked the child’s parents about his medical history. They told Bunker he had a serious medical condition carried from when he was an infant. They told her they were driving down the road and he was eating when out of nowhere, he started getting dizzy, vomiting and losing consciousness. That’s when they pulled over and got out of their vehicle.

“After I got him breathing again, I noticed he was shaking and his lips were blue,” said Bunker. “They had been dumping water on him because he had vomited on himself. I asked his parents if it was okay to cut his clothes off because there was no way to remove them, while also keeping his airway secure.”

Locals provided jackets to place on the child to warm his body temperature, but he started to vomit again and she had to roll him over to his side. At this point he started to regain consciousness, but the captain could tell he was disorientated and was starting to panic.

“I had his father and mother get down close to him to calm and reassure him that everything was going to be okay,” said Bunker.

When the ambulance arrived the captain had the translator communicate what the family had told her about his medical history. She also had her tell the paramedics what she had done for the child. The paramedics put him on a stretcher and took him away; the captain said he was stable when they left.

“It was a very humbling experience,” said Bunker. “Sometimes you doubt yourself, but in that moment my training just kind of took over and my skills were able to come forward. It was very emotional; he was the first child I have rescued. I wish his family well and I hope he has a good outcome.”