Face of Defense: Airman's Buddy Care Effort Saves Accident Victim's Hand

Jan. 2, 2018 | BY Samuel King , Eglin Air Force Base
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On Halloween, screams and howls are a common occurrence that comes with the holiday. For one 96th Security Forces Squadron airman here, the screams he heard this Halloween were real. Those howls spurred him into heroic action to help a severely injured victim.

Air Force Master Sgt. Justin Hagemann really wanted to be outside and do some yardwork before the little monsters came out for tricks and treats. He hadn’t been able to do much due to a recent ankle surgery and although his wife didn’t like it, he persisted.

While pulling weeds, he heard screaming from his neighbor’s house. Hagemann said he instantly knew what had happened due to the construction noises he’d heard throughout the day and his familiarity with the power tools being used.

Hagemann rushed over to find a blood trail that led to a worker who was screaming and holding his left hand.

The 15-year airman saw the worker’s pinkie finger had been cut through by a table saw and was hanging by a thin piece of skin.

Hagemann found out the man’s name was Adam and asked one of the man’s coworkers to call 911 immediately. The airman moved Adam under a large tree in his own yard. Once he was settled, Hagemann rushed into his house for clean towels and ice.

When he began to wrap the man’s hand, the master sergeant discovered a second injury. Adam’s thumb had been cut through past the bone as well, but was still attached. Hagemann wrapped up his hand with ice and kept it elevated.

“I always remember the ABC lesson from self-aid buddy care training,” he said. “The A [airway] and B [breathing] were good, so I focused on the circulation. I wanted to keep him as calm as possible, slow his breathing and hopefully slow the blood flow to his hand.”

This was easier said than done. Hagemann said Adam was in mild shock and began to panic about the potential loss of his fingers and livelihood.

“I tried to steer things to the positive to keep him calm,” he said.


The paramedics took over the situation upon arrival and Adam was taken to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. The entire incident lasted roughly 20 minutes. The injured man was later transferred to Gainesville for surgery with a hand specialist.

“My family and I prayed for Adam,” said Ken Teter, Hagemann’s neighbor and owner of the house where the accident happened. “Such a debilitating injury would surely be a life-changing event for him and his family. The results of Justin's heroic act were not immediately known on that day, but came to light over the next few days.”

On Nov. 1, Teter and Hagemann learned Adam’s fingers were reattached and he was recovering. By Nov. 3, they learned the man was home and even had some feeling returning to his pinkie and thumb.

Adam’s hand surgeons sent word back that Hagemann’s quick and proper first aid had made the surgery possible, according to Teter.

“I’m convinced Justin's actions prevented this accident from being any worse and likely saved this man's thumb and finger,” he said. “Such a loss would be so debilitating that who knows how it would affect his life and family.”

Hagemann modestly downplays his role and impact on Adam’s life.

“I was just at the right place at the right time,” he said. “I was happy to hear they were able to reattach his fingers. I hope he gets the motion and feeling back so he can work again and provide for his family.”

(Editor’s note: Attempts by Eglin Air Force Base public affairs personnel to contact Adam through his employer and foreman went unanswered.)