TACOMA, Wash. -- Two practical nursing course students used Army medical skills and quick instincts to save the life of a patient suffering from a heart attack June 25, outside Madigan Army Medical Center.

Madigan leadership will recognize the two for their actions at an upcoming awards ceremony.

Spc. Matthew Moxley and Pfc. Benjamin Bonathan were walking toward their barracks at Madigan Annex when they were stopped outside the Hospital Tower by a retired Marine Corps chief warrant officer in his mid-50s asking for directions to the emergency room.

Moxley, 31, from Trabuco Canyon, Calif., started giving directions while Bonathan, 25, from Flint, Mich., noticed the man experiencing "guppy breathing" - short, gasping breaths - and having chest pains.

The two students' Army medical training kicked into gear, and the conversation immediately turned from figuring out street names and left/right directions to questions of if the man was ok and how much pain he was enduring.

Both Moxley and Bonathan realized the man was probably having a heart attack, and moved the man out of the driver seat and to the passenger seat. Moxley adjusted the man's driver seat, put the car in drive and whipped the vehicle quickly over to the ER. Bonathan sat in the back seat, notebook and pen in hand, taking down patient information like name, age, medications the man was on, and if he had suffered heart attacks in the past.

Once the students and patient arrived at the ER, Bonathan jumped out, grabbed a wheelchair and a nurse, and raced back to the car. They turned over the man along with his vital information to the nurse and ER doctors, and then surprisingly, ran to class, because they were late. They didn't stay with the man because Madigan nursing students have a pass-off rule - they must hand off a patient to a medical professional with the same or higher level of training as them.

Later, Moxley's instructor told him some amazing news: within minutes of the man reaching the ER, he coded, or his heart failed, and he died on the exam table. ER doctors were able to shock him back alive, and the retiree is currently on life support in Madigan's Intensive Care Unit, receiving follow-on care.

Even more interesting is that Moxley is currently shadowing ICU registered nurses, so he was able to have the man be his patient. "It's cool to see the continuum of care and get to employ my training," Moxley said.

These two brand-new Soldiers are very modest, but even they realize the importance of how their actions resulted in saving the man's life. "Someone's standing on this Earth because we were there to help them and I know we had a part in that," Moxley said.

Bonathan added, "We haven't had a lot of experience with heart attack symptoms, but we knew the man needed to get to the ER immediately. Moxley and Bonathan are serving in the Army Reserve and plan to graduate in October.

Both desire to be physician assistants and head back to college to begin fulfilling those necessary prerequisites. "We (didn't join the Army) for the money, but for the 'warm and fuzzies' that come with helping people," Moxley said.

Page last updated Tue July 13th, 2010 at 13:03