Teachers help accident victim cling to life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Eydie Sakura
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
A quarter mile of debris; a demolished guardrail on the right side of the road and a shoe in the middle lane; the hood of a car on the left. This was the scene that two Spangdahlem Air Base members drove up on at approximately 6:45 a.m. May 6 on Autobahn A-1 near Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Karen Ventrice, American Red Cross first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructor, and April Goetz, Spangdahlem Middle School teacher, were heading to a flea market when they noticed a man in the road directing traffic. They decided to pull over and provide assistance when they saw another man lying in the middle of the Autobahn.

"(The man) had been bleeding severely and there were two German men standing over him. I asked them if I could provide assistance and told them I was trained (in first aid)," said Ms. Ventrice, ARC first aid and CPR instructor. "They said I could help, so I ran to my car and grabbed my first aid kit, blankets and towels I had in the car. I also grabbed my daughter's soccer shirt."

The unidentified victim had lacerations across his chest, his right arm was nearly severed just below the elbow, and he was in shock. He was losing blood from his head, but Ms. Ventrice was not sure what kind of head wound the man sustained.

"There was no blood near his chest and arm. That is what happens when you go into shock," Ms. Ventrice said. "The blood flows to the worst injury, and blood was being forced out of his head."

The ARC instructor took a T-shirt and wrapped the man's head. He bled right through it, so she continued wrapping his head with towels and blankets. Ms. Goetz flagged down passing vehicles to acquire more towels, blankets and rags to help stop the bleeding.

"Karen asked me to hold his armtogether, as it was exposed and open. I couldn't," Ms. Goetz said. "She told me it was ‘OK' and that I should pray. So I prayed and prayed."

Ms. Ventrice continued holding the man's head to stop the bleeding. She held him for roughly 20 minutes before the emergency response team arrived.

"During the time I was holding onto the gentleman, he was mumbling something," Ms. Ventrice said. "He kept reaching for my arm. I kind of moved it out of the way and told him it was ‘OK.' He kept trying to lift (himself) up, which was odd and I think he was trying to communicate."

Once the German Polizei and fire department arrived, Ms. Ventrice continued providing aid and supported the man until an IV and oxygen mask were administered.

The unidentified man survived, has no brain damage and his arm was reattached.

"What's truly amazing is he would have bled out because he was bleeding massively," Ms. Ventrice said. "I kept applying towels and putting pressure -- it's something we teach in the basic first aid class -- apply pressure."

Spangdahlem AB ARC instructor trainer Tom Smith, said he was very excited to know a person who possessed the necessary skills taught by the Red Cross used them to help an injured person, as most people will fortunately never have to use them.

"I have no doubt the skills were properly applied; it helped the man considerably," Mr. Smith said. "Since we are a military community located overseas, we need to keep our members of the community as safe as possible at all times with the knowledge of how to respond to an emergency."

Ms. Ventrice said the experience proves how important learning basic first aid and CPR is to everyone.

"You never know if it's going to happen to you, your friends or a loved one -- or even in a situation with a stranger," she said. "Most people don't plan to run upon an accident like this. You just kind of stumble upon it."
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