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NEWS | June 7, 2022

Right Place, Right Time: Off-Duty Airman Saves Child's Life

By Airman Simonne Barker Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

Airmen train to be prepared at any given moment and may wonder how it can apply to the real world. Now, a JB MDL Airman can attest that it saves lives.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ricardo Cabezas, an 87th Healthcare Operations Squadron Medic, was on his way to Philadelphia when he saw a group of people in the middle of the road. He quickly pulled over and approached the scene.

“I saw a little boy on the ground and a huge pool of blood,” said Cabezas. “I thought to myself, ‘this is something serious.’”

Cabezas immediately took action and assumed the leading role at the scene. He began delegating to those at the scene by first directing someone to call 911 as he conducted the vital patient assessments.

“If there is a traumatic injury, anything involving the spine, you don’t want to move the patient at all,” stated Cabezas. “You want to keep them as still as possible.”

During the initial assessment of the patient, Cabezas became aware of the child’s compromised airway. With the help of a nurse that was also at the scene, they maintained c-spine stabilization to protect the child’s spinal cord while repositioning the patient to maintain a patent airway.

“I rotated his head a little to the left so he could breathe normally,” stated Cabezas. “The hardest thing was when we rotated his head, he opened his eyes and smiled at me.”

Cabezas moved onto a secondary assessment where he recognized  a fracture in the child’s arm. He used nearby sticks and articles of clothing to make a makeshift splint for the child’s arm and finished the assessments to ensure there were no other critical injuries.

Cabezas then effectively communicated the injuries to the dispatcher, requested BLS (Basic Life Support) and ALS (Advanced Life Support) and asked for a life-flight because of the child’s severe condition. Once the ambulance and paramedics arrived, he helped load the child onto the pediatric spine board and reported all of his findings and treatment to EMS.

“I helped load him into the ambulance and they took over from there and transported the patient,” said Cabezas. “That was the worst pediatric trauma I’ve witnessed.”

The child suffered several injuries but is expected to make a full recovery following surgery and recuperation.

“All the experience and training that I’ve had from the Air Force is the only reason why I was able to help that kid,” expressed Cabezas. “This is what I signed up to do.”