By Ms. Jennifer Walsh (Army Medicine)March 5, 2009
As Sgt. Latoddia S. Maze, a medic at the Heidelberg Health Center, pulled up to the crash scene, he saw a passenger's hand sticking out of the sunroof.
It wasn't moving.
Maze had been driving on the autobahn March 2, returning to Heidelberg from Frankfurt Airport early that morning. A one-car accident involving two passengers had taken place moments before he passed by.
"I parked my car, got out of the car and ran up to the scene," Maze said. "I looked at the gentleman in the car. He was in the driver's seat and his leg was shaking. He was in the fetal position, so all I could see was basically him going into shock. I yanked on the door, but I couldn't get the door open."
Maze then borrowed a car jack from one of the other people who had stopped to help. He placed the car jack between the window and the roof and was able to raise the roof a few inches. Although he could not get the driver out, he could get air into the vehicle.
"He (the driver) began to start breathing," Maze said. "But it was short, gasping breaths."
Unable to open the doors of the vehicle, Maze turned his attention to the female passenger next to the driver. It was her hand coming out of the sunroof.
"I went up to her, grabbed her hand and felt for a pulse on her wrist. She had a weak pulse," Maze said. "She wasn't responding or saying anything to me, but I continued to tap on her leg trying to get her attention. Finally, she moved her wrist. If her hand wasn't out of the sunroof, I wouldn't have been able to tell she still had some life in her."
Approximately seven minutes later, the polizei, fire department and ambulance teams showed up. Maze gave them a detailed account of what he had already done to help the passengers. Then the rescue teams cut the passengers out of the vehicle and transferred them to two helicopters for evacuation. However, it was Maze's initial actions that helped keep the passengers stable.
"Sgt. Maze was one of the first to come to the scene of the accident and provided first aid in an exemplary manner," Peter Watzl, the South Hessen Polizei Department superintendent, said.
For Maze, the morning was a product of his Army training and his devotion to saving lives.
"I basically took everything - the warrior ethos and everything - and pulled it all into one and did what I had to do to save these people," Maze said. "My Army training helped me because number one, they teach us to adapt to situations. Even if you are nervous, you have to be cool because there are other people who are depending on you."
According to his supervisor, Maj. Claudia Peterson, who is the head nurse of the Family Practice Clinic, the situation Maze was in was unusual, but his reaction to the event was not.
"A lot of people do drive by (accident scenes), but he's trained to be a medic. He is in the military and he did what he's trained to do," Peterson said. "He's an excellent NCO. I'm really proud of him."
Although Maze has been in the Army since 2004, he has only been a medic for about a year. He got his Army start as an automated logistical specialist and changed his career path when he re-enlisted.
"I've always loved medicine," Maze said. "I had a lot of people in my past who died that could've been prevented if someone had the correct training. I figured I could be the one to do it."
Maze attended Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, in March 2008. Sixteen weeks later, he emerged as a fully trained medic. He then made his way to Heidelberg where he now works in the health center's Family Practice Clinic. He primarily works with active-duty service members and Families, but has a soft spot for the local retirees.
"There are a lot of retirees here and those guys did the same thing I did," Maze said. "They sacrificed 20 years plus. They deserve to have a medic who really cares about what he does and truly wants to be there for them."
In the future, Maze plans to shift his focus to occupational therapy so he can aid Soldiers suffering from battlefield injuries.
"I'm fascinated with helping Soldiers out with this war," Maze said. "My main goal is to make someone get out of bed and say, yes, I want to get up this morning. I don't want to die."
In the meantime, Maze is happy working in Family Practice and even happier to continue being a Soldier. He plans to re-enlist this August.
"It goes past being a medic. It goes all the way to the basics of being a Soldier," Maze said. "I wear this uniform with pride and I love what I do."