Face of Defense: Airman’s Calm Response Helps to Save Life

Jan. 29, 2016 | BY Air Force Airman Jenna K. Caldwell , 22nd Air Refueling Wing

It was Christmas night, 2015, and the restaurant was nearly empty. Michael Hamilton, a cook, suddenly fell to the ground during his shift. The restaurant staff had no medical training. Panic began.

Then, a waitress remembered speaking with a patron who had mentioned she was a medic, just minutes before in the lounge area.

The patron was Air Force Staff Sgt. Christina Begeal, a 22nd Medical Group aerospace medical technician here. She had just happened to be relaxing in the restaurant on her night off.

The waitress rushed to Begeal and brought her into the kitchen. Upon seeing the emergency, Begeal responded immediately, aware that the victim was having a seizure.

Assisting the Victim

"He couldn't talk. He couldn't move," Begeal said. "So I told him, 'If you can hear me, squeeze my hand -- one for yes, two for no,' and he could do that."

She said she directed the two other staff members to call 911 and to help her care for the victim. They moved the victim to a safer location and treated him for shock, she said. They elevated his legs and put something soft around him. Begeal said she checked his pulse and his eyes for reaction to light.

At one point, Hamilton stopped breathing and Begeal said she gave him rescue breaths until he started breathing on his own again. Before paramedics arrived on scene, he came around.

She said she continued to communicate with him and asked if he had eaten any food recently or was currently on any medication, so she could relay the information to the paramedics.

"When emergency medical services got there, it seemed like he was paralyzed; he was so exhausted from the seizure," Begeal said. "They loaded him in the ambulance and took him to the hospital."

Treatment and Release

At the hospital, Hamilton was evaluated, treated and released back to work.

"I didn't think what happened that day would have happened so quickly," Hamilton said. "If she hadn't been here, there would have been more questioning, more chaos and less stability."

When Begeal returned to the same restaurant a few weeks later, Hamilton said he approached her and thanked her for saving his life.

"I was really glad she was there to help because everybody else was frantic," he said. "She stepped up, called the shots and made me feel like everything was going to be OK."

Begeal stressed that basic care provided to a victim in the midst of waiting for paramedics to arrive is crucial and wanted to spread the message.

To emphasize the importance of bystander intervention and self-aid and buddy care, she is coordinating to teach a certified CPR course to the restaurant staff.

Every 22nd Air Refueling Wing airman is required to complete training in SABC, bystander intervention, basic situational awareness, and many other lifesaving lessons.