Vermont National Guard
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Vermont Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Darren Adams and Airman 1st Class Megan Robitaille were on their way back from Honor Guard detail in Bennington May 7, when Robitaille, who was familiar with the area, suggested they use a slightly off-beat road to save time on the trip home.
As they drove on through Hubbardton, Robitaille thought she saw a blue blanket or tarp in the middle of the road. Adams narrowed his eyes, saying "Is that what I think it is?"
Their fears were confirmed when they pulled up next to the bicyclist who's unnervingly still body lay in the middle of the southbound lane near a crest of the hill. Not far from him lay his crumpled bike, and a short distance away was a distraught lady in a car that had apparently collided with it.
Robitaille had gone to school for sports medicine and was used to helping injured people on the playing field. Adams had been an emergency medical technician for 13 years and had more than 3,000 rescues under his belt.
Both, still in full honor-guard uniform, rushed to the man after parking their car sideways to block on-coming traffic from the accident scene. There was no hesitation as training – both military and school – kicked in.
"I felt very confident we could help this man," said Robitaille. "It was instinct; this was what we had to do."
He was an older man, grey hair and wearing blue biking gear, and from the frothy saliva from his mouth the two VTANG members could see he was having snoring respiration or difficulty breathing.
It was obvious to them the man had gone into shock and was unconscious.
Using exact steps from Self-Aid Buddy Care to turn the man from his side, careful of possible spinal injuries, the two placed him on his back. From there, Adams got behind the man's head and thrusted the biker's jaw forward so the tongue wouldn't be blocking the airways. Meanwhile, Robitaille checked his pulse and then tried to warm his body with a blanket, which was cold and clammy despite the 75 degree weather.
A Central Vermont Public Service worker who came upon the scene shortly after them used his cell phone to contact 911.
"It's funny," Adams said, "because we're in our blues but it doesn't say who we are. I could tell the [emergency] call-taker was asking if there [were] first responders there and he says, 'I think the Air Force is here.' I could imagine the call-taker thinking a lot of good that's going to do."
But Robitaille and Adams did a lot of good – after holding the man's jaw forward to keep his tongue from blocking his breathing for a quarter of an hour, the man regained painful consciousness.
He could tell the VTANG his name, but didn't know where he was or where he was going or what day it was. Adams was able to do a head-to-toe assessment of the man's condition. Aside to the expected cuts and abrasions, the biker seemed to have a broken shoulder, ribs, and a head injury. The man's bike helmet had thankfully soaked up much of the impact.
"We went from burying a veteran to saving a civilian," Robitalle said. "It's one of those bittersweet things when you can't believe this is happening, but it's such a rewarding experience to be able to save someone's life." She said she hopes to see him again.
Both of them said that although they had a medical background which was obviously helpful in this situation, they are sure the SABC training through the Air National Guard would enable any service-member to be able to potentially save a person's life. The biggest factor is staying calm and letting the training come to you.