JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
A physician assistant from Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston is being lauded for his efforts and quick action in helping to save a life of a man struck by lightning.
Capt. Robert Blume, Medical Education and Training Campus Department of Combat Medic Training Officer in charge, Whiskey 2 training team, was on his way home from work on the evening of June 6 when he came upon a chaotic scene in his north San Antonio-area neighborhood.
“I had seen from the distance the bad weather,” Blume said. “The sky was black and there was lightning. I pulled into the neighborhood. I see a fire truck, two police cars and an ambulance. I slow down and it’s raining and lightning still and a (Bexar County Sheriff’s Office) deputy is in the street.
“I roll down the window and I asked her, ‘What is going on?’ I’m an Army P.A. (physician assistant),” Blume added. “She said a man was struck by lightning on that rooftop and she gestured behind me.”
The man struck by lightning was 21-year-old Joshua Favor, who law enforcement officials said was delivering roofing material when he was electrocuted.
Blume, a 26-year Army Soldier, got out of his vehicle and ran through the yard to a ladder going to the back of the roof. He climbed the ladder and when he got up to the rooftop, Blume saw a paramedic doing chest compressions on Favor. Blume told the paramedic he is an Army physician assistant with trauma experience who can help.
When Blume first saw Favor, he saw burn exit wounds on both of his legs. Blume said Favor’s eyes were pinpointed, which meant his pupils were constricted, and he was lifeless. The physician assistant felt for a pulse and found none.
Blume told the paramedic that in addition to the chest compressions, that a bag valve mask was needed. A bag valve mask is a balloon or bag type hand-held device that provides ventilation to patients who are not breathing or breathing adequately.
Blume then told the paramedic that an airway device was needed to open up the patient’s airway. Blume, who is certified to operate an airway device, instructed a Bexar County Sheriff’s deputy who was on the roof to hold Favor’s head so that he could insert the airway. He and the paramedic continued to do chest compressions and ventilations on Favor, but the patient still did not have a pulse.
The next procedure Blume brought up to the paramedic was to shock the patient. But since it was still raining and lightning, it would have been dangerous to do the shock treatment because it would have endangered Blume and the first responders on the roof. Doing shock treatment required moving Favor to a drier environment.
With the permission of the battalion fire chief who was on the ground, a safety harness was brought up the ladder to move the patient. Favor was put on the harness and brought down the ladder by the firefighter, with Blume, the paramedic and the deputy holding the climbing rope that was used to move the safety harness with the patient down to the ground.
Once Favor was off the roof, he was put on a gurney and taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Later on, he was transported to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center, located at Brooke Army Medical Center at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.
At the time Favor was transported to the USAISR Burn Center, Blume said he did not think that Favor would survive.
“I had a hard time sleeping that night,” Blume said. “I was just thinking, replaying in my head, what could we, as a team, done better? I felt horrible because I told my wife, this 21-year-old gentleman, he didn’t get up thinking this was his last day on earth.”
The next day Blume returned to work and to his surprise, as he was reading a media report about the incident, he found out that Favor was still alive.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I was like, there was no way because I could not get a pulse on him. When I got up there (on the roof) I thought that he was not with us, I thought he was dead at the time. I was nearly overwhelmed the next day when I found out he was still alive. It made me feel better because you don’t want to see any loss of life. I was pleased to see a positive outcome. Any time somebody’s life is saved is positive.”
After reading the news report, Blume went to BAMC to confirm if Favor was still alive. A volunteer at the hospital was able to direct him to the front desk of the USAISR Burn Center. By coincidence, Favor’s family members were also there at the same time.
“The lady at the front desk says, ‘Well, everybody sitting behind you is his family,’” Blume said. “And then she introduced me to the family, which was emotional.”
After being introduced to the family, Blume spoke to Favor’s older sister. “You’re our guardian angel,” said Blume recalling what the sister said to him. “Is it okay if I give you a hug?”
He then met Favor’s fiancée, who had just found out she was pregnant. Blume said she cried and gave him a hug.
When he looked at the report on the incident, Blume found out that Favor started responding to the airway that he had put in while in the ambulance.
“I feel like it was a miracle because the last thing I saw of him was when they were loading him into the ambulance,” Blume said. “Right before we took him down the ladder, we still had not gotten a pulse on him. It was nice for me to see that our interventions gave him a chance.”
Reflecting on the situation in which he wound up helping Favor, along with first responders, Blume said his instincts as a servicemember to do his duty took over even though he knew the risks to his safety as he went up to the roof.
“Honestly, I said a prayer and I always firmly believe if you are doing the right thing for the right purposes, you’ll be okay,” Blume added. “I didn’t want to see him suffer, you hate to see other people suffering and you do what you can to help.”
He credited his training and experiences working in austere environments with frontline units when he was deployed in Afghanistan and previously as a scout reconnaissance first sergeant, for guiding his actions in helping to save Favor’s life.
“As a scout you’re trained to develop and take charge of situations,” Blume said. “As a physician assistant, you are always by yourself most of the time with a number of medics and you are forward with the most forward troops at combat outposts in an austere environment. You’re always using critical thinking. You are forced to think outside the box.”
Blume praised the paramedic, the firefighters and deputy who were on the roof with him working to save Favor, despite putting themselves in a dangerous situation. Despite not having worked with the first responders before, Blume said they all worked well together in caring for Favor.
“They worked fluidly well,” he said. “They all were very focused on the patient, not themselves. They were actively only considering Josh and his condition. You can truly see they care about human life. I was very impressed. I’m kind of in awe that people go out every day in the worst elements and do that.”
As of last week, Favor was listed in critical condition at the USAISR Burn Center.