JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas –
It was right before dawn March 21, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and several hundred trainees in basic military training were running on the track around the physical training pad when one trainee suddenly collapsed. The trainee fell hard on the ground and began to convulse from a seizure. Immediately, someone blew the air horn, indicating there was a real-world emergency.
Several military training instructors, who are entrusted with the trainees' safety, came together to help save the trainee’s life.
“I was conducting PT tests when I heard the horn,” said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Drumm, 324th Training Squadron military training instructor and NCO in charge of PT and supply. “I looked up over my paper and saw a large group of people and an MTI waving. At that point, I threw my clipboard down and ran across the PT pad.”
“When I ran up, the individual was seizing,” Drumm continued. “He was in a puddle of his own blood.”
It’s a situation Drumm and many of the others present hadn’t seen before, but they stepped into action and utilized their training to help the distressed individual.
“By the time I got over there, there were four instructors responding to this patient,” said Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Tischer, 737th Training Support Squadron NCO in charge of bravo dispensary and independent duty medical technician. An IDMT is required to be present whenever trainees are exercising as a safety measure. “The patient was on the ground, actively seizing, and laying in a pool of blood.
I assume he seized while running and hit his face. He had a lot of facial trauma; his lip was swollen, he was missing some teeth.”
While Drumm called 911, the group focused on keeping the trainee comfortable until help arrived.
“We referred back to our self-aid and buddy care; we mobilized his head and rolled him over,” said Master Sgt. Mark Johnson, 324th TRS MTI. “It seemed like it really helped him breathe.”
“Your biggest concern anytime there is facial trauma when somebody is seizing is to maintain their airway,” Tischer said.
After about 45 seconds, the trainee come out of the seizure and started coming to.
“We just tried to calm him down,” Drumm said. “We weren’t assertive, we weren’t screaming it at him … we were telling him ‘calm down, you’re at Lackland.’”
Once the trainee had been stabilized for transport, he was taken to San Antonio Military Medical Center and eventually released.
The whole incident from airhorn to ambulance transpired in a matter of minutes.
“The instructors performed superbly,” Tischer said. “Even though I’m the only one medically trained out there, it was still a team effort.”
The safety of the trainees at BMT is a top priority, so there are numerous policies in place to ensure BMT is a safe environment. For example, not only must IDMTs be present during all aerobic activities, they are also present during every retreat and parade ceremony. IDMTs are annually certified in SABC and trained in emergency medical services protocols.
There is also a work-to-rest cycle used for trainees depending on the temperature. If conditions exceed 90 degrees, activity is called off. In addition, MTIs conduct code blue exercises quarterly and refresh their CPR skills every two years.
Training for the unexpected is routine, but when there was a real world emergency, Drumm said everyone’s hard work definitely paid off.