Lackland Air Force Base, Texas —
Bryan Hines, his San Antonio family and his extended family at Lackland have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving after a combination of factors saved the young man's life.
Bryan was born 18 years ago with a medical condition that threatened his life whenever he did rigorous exercise, but he didn't know it. He said in his room last week at Wilford Hall Medical Center that no one could have known he had a slightly misplaced pulmonary artery without giving him a CT scan.
The need for computed tomography did not become apparent until he nearly died trying to pass his physical readiness training requirements to graduate from Air Force Basic Military Training. Thankfully, three military training instructors from the 319th Training Squadron immediately performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, restoring his heartbeat and breathing.
When the three MTIs visited Mr. Hines in his hospital room Nov. 14, his mother, Anita Hines, said they are her son's "angels in disguise."
Mr. Hines was in the 319th TRS' Fit Flight Program and was attempting to complete his 1.5-mile run Oct. 27 so he could return to his "street" squadron and graduate from BMT the following Friday, the MTIs said. They said he had successfully completed his sit-ups and push-ups the day before.
After he ran five of six laps, he became too tired to continue, stopped and was getting ready to drink some water when he fell unconscious at the "Hotel Row" track closest to Carswell Avenue. He went into convulsions, and then his heart and breathing stopped.
His three MTI angels, Staff Sgts. Carlos Coronado, Bernard Hales and John Jeffress, performed CPR and were able to restore his pulse and breathing, though Mr. Hines remained unconscious and in critical condition in Wilford Hall's Intensive Care Unit for two days.
Col. (Dr.) Timothy Halligan, 59th Aeromedical Group commander and "kind of like the base doc" as liaison between the 37th Training Wing and the 59th Medical Wing, said if the three MTIs had not been there to perform immediate CPR, "the first step in the chain of survival would not have been there," and no matter what happened later, Mr. Hines would have died.
"The good part," Colonel Halligan added, is that the young man "probably would have died anywhere else. If he wasn't in boot camp, he probably would have. He would have had this incident that happened to him - out jogging, whatever," and it would have been unlikely that the chain of survival would have been so close.
The chain, he added, includes trained paramedics in an ambulance who responded to the scene within two minutes of the call and gave Mr. Hines advanced life support. And, he said, transported him to a medical center within minutes, followed by "advanced cardiac life support within a half-hour. So that's my chain of survival. If all those hadn't been there, then that man would have likely died."
Colonel Halligan said the condition is 100 percent correctable with bypass surgery, and he can be waived and come back into the Air Force after he passes a medical test.
"I'm looking forward to coming back," said Mr. Hines, who was transferred Friday to San Antonio's Methodist Heart Hospital, where he is awaiting bypass surgery. He gives thanks to the Air Force and to the MTIs, who visited him several times at Wilford Hall.
"I'm glad the Air Force makes sure all its personnel know the proper procedures in situations like that, and I'm just thankful that they were there," Mr. Hines said.
Colonel Halligan participated with 37th TRW Commander Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones in presenting each of the MTIs with an Outstanding Achievement citation during a Nov. 7 wing staff meeting. "With calmness and due diligence," the citation reads, "the team restored the trainee's pulse and respiration. The intensive care unit's medical doctor credited Sergeant (each MTI's name) rapid actions for saving the trainee's life and preventing brain damage."
"I'm glad we were able to bring him back," Sergeant Jeffress said during an interview.
"That's for sure," Sergeant Coronado said. "It's difficult to have one of our trainees over there (at Wilford Hall). It shook all three of us up bad, emotionally."
Mr. Hines said he has no memory of the incident and asked the visiting TIs what happened.
Sergeant Coronado said, "You didn't put your hands out or anything - you just went down. You went into convulsions. Your eyes rolled back, your lips turned purple, then you went limp.
"I was hoping you would remember - to see if you saw the light or anything," Sergeant Coronado added, bringing laughter to the room. After calling for an ambulance, Sergeant Jeffress gave him two quick breaths, Sergeant Coronado massaged his heart and Sergeant Hales administered chest compressions. Sergeant Jeffress said his pulse and breathing came back after about four sets of CPR.
Sergeant Hales said he saw blood coming from his nose and "thought I crushed your ribs" with the chest compressions. "I was scared."
Mrs. Hines, a dosimetrist at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, said her son complained of soreness in his chest when he regained consciousness the following day. "I asked the doctor if his ribs were broken, and the doctor said no."
Mr. Hines, wearing a heart monitor that transmitted readings to a nurses' station, said he felt fine and was just waiting for his discharge papers to come in from Randolph AFB so bypass surgery could be scheduled.
Reached earlier by telephone, the 2006 Taft High School graduate said he decided to join the Air Force because his father, grandfather and uncle are veterans, and for the college education benefits. "It's kind of a family thing."
His father, Randal Hines, a detective for the San Antonio Police Department, said by telephone that he was in the Air National Guard and came to San Antonio in 1989 on a five-year extended tour of active duty as an MTI at Lackland. Bryan was 1 year old at the time. He separated in 1994 as a staff sergeant, and the family stayed because the SAPD hired him. They also have a 9-year-old daughter.
Detective Hines was a TI for the 3711th TRS, later designated as the 329th TRS. Asked if he had to use CPR to save a trainee, he said, "I never had that experience before, and I can only just imagine what was going through those guys' heads when my son went down."
He gives thanks for several things: "I'm very grateful to the Air Force; very grateful to basic training for training the instructors in CPR. If they hadn't done that, my son would be dead right now."
But one thing has him at a loss this Thanksgiving.
"I have no idea what I could do to ever thank them for what they did."