HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas -- While the nation showed its appreciation of its military on Veteran's Day, one man was especially thankful for a trio of Army medical professionals who saved his mother's life the day before.
Capt. Jason Ausman, emergency medicine medical resident at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center; 2nd Lt. Donald Rees, fourth-year student at Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland; and Laura Hampton, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center ER nurse, were eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Harker Heights on Friday Nov. 10 when they heard a frantic shout for a doctor.
Lance Boucher's mother Anita had suddenly slumped over unresponsive. Boucher told reporters afterwards that he could see in her face that his mother was gone.
The three Army personnel reacted immediately.
"She was very pale and not breathing at all. I couldn't find a pulse," Ausman said. "We started doing CPR and chest compressions. Laura came over to assist, starting a timer for us. It was hard to gauge the time, but sometime during the middle of the chest compressions she opened her eyes and started breathing."
Hampton talked to the Bouchers about Anita's health history, trying to get a sense of what led up to the moment. Lance told them that Anita, 64, has had historically good health and had no known heart conditions. She works 16 hour days -- seven days a week, cleaning houses.
Minutes later, emergency medical services came to take Anita to the Intensive Care Unit at Seton Medical Center. Anita is currently at home recuperating.
"I am so grateful to those Soldiers. They were there within milliseconds and knew exactly what to do. They saved my mother's life," Lance said. "Talk about right place, right time. That's exactly why I like living here. This is just one example of how the Soldiers are an asset to the community. Just knowing that they're around makes me feel safer. In addition to the doctors and nurses who are trained professionals, all Soldiers are trained in life saving techniques. And taking care of people is innate to Soldiers. You can't ask for better neighbors."
While saving a life was not on their menu for breakfast, Ausman, Rees and Hampton took it in stride.
"I think my military training prepared me for situations like this. I just completed a mass casualty culminating exercise which challenged my abilities to triage casualties quickly, make life or death decisions, all under austere conditions," Rees said, adding that while this was his first life or death situation with a live person, it felt fluid to him.
The first in his family to enter the military and a medical career, Rees plans to become a pediatrician. He chose the military because of the diverse nature and global experiences of Army medicine.
Ausman agreed with his friend and said he believes the training and experiences in military medicine puts him a bit ahead of his non-military peers.
"You have to be able to assess and react without hesitancy in any emergency situation. We will be faced with difficult situations in the roughest environment and will have to rely on our instincts and leadership skills. The military does an excellent job of developing leaders," Ausman added.
Ausman, also the first in his family to enter the military and a medical career, wanted to be a doctor all his life and worked as a paramedic for several years before deciding to go to medical school. He chose the Army also because of the many facets of military medicine.
"It's my way to give back to my country. I'm honored to serve and to take care of the Soldiers and their families entrusted to my care," Ausman said.
Hampton's dedication to Army medicine grew out of her prior military service with U.S. Army Forces Command as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Reconnaissance Specialist. She deployed to Iraq twice, first with Fort Hood's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and then again with 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia. She feels those experiences helped prepare her for the grueling world of emergency medicine and how to react to the unexpected.
"During my first deployment to Baghdad, I was the lead vehicle driver for my battalion commander's personal security detail team. Once an Iraqi army patrol near us was hit by an IED and I helped render medical care to wounded Iraqi army and police personnel," Hampton said. "I always had a passion for helping people so when I got out of the Army, I decided to go to nursing school."
And while she no longer works in a combat zone, she said she thrives under the pressure of working in the ER. "It's fast-paced, and you never know what you will face during the day," she added. "You really have to be ready for anything."