U.S. Soldiers utilize medical training to save Latvian man
Story by U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle Larsen
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
"Capt. Gorges and I were taking a train into town for haircuts like any other day," said Staff Sgt. Stephen Yang, the senior medic for U.S. forces Latvia. "The train was packed, so it was standing room only. Slightly after we left the station in Ogre, I looked over and saw an older gentleman swaying. When he began seizing, I sprinted over to him just in time."
As U.S. Army medical personnel, Capt. Logan Gorges and Yang, both assigned to Task Force Nightmare, have specialized training that prepares them for all types of emergency situations. When the man began seizing up they knew just how to react.
Yang went on to explain how his training in the field prepared him to react in a moments' notice. His experience allowed him to detect the faintest sign of irregularity in the man's behavior.
"I was looking into the distance, kind of zoned out," said Yang. "This man was swaying slowly and just seemed out of it. It wasn't until his head tilted back that I knew something wasn't right.
"I didn't do anything special, I used my Army training to help somebody having a medical emergency and I believe anyone else in my situation would have acted in the same way."
Yang rushed over to the man to stop his head from hitting the ground and causing more damage. After securing the gentleman, he yelled for his colleague, Gorges, who is the battalion flight surgeon.
"When I heard sergeant Yang call my name, I turned to see him catching an older gentleman," said Gorges. "As Yang caught him, he lowered the man to the floor and proceeded to lay him on his side. This was important to make sure his airway was protected."
Gorges and Yang were then able to find a woman who spoke English well enough to translate. They asked her to dial 1-1-3 [the emergency line in Latvia]. Now, it was just a matter of keeping the man conscious until they reached the station in Riga.
"We were able to get the patient in a good position," said Gorges as he looked up recollecting the day's event. "The seizure lasted about 11 minutes, which is unusual because they are typically much shorter. The patient stopped breathing a couple of times and we had to restore breathing. When his pulse got low, we worried that we would have to perform CPR, fortunately it wasn't needed."
Finally, Gorges and Yang, who both fall under 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, were able to get the man into a stable condition. When the train arrived in Riga, the paramedics were waiting at the gate and Gorges was able to explain the circumstance to them.
The paramedics were able to take the patient to a nearby hospital for the proper medical attention. Due to the quick response by Yang and Gorges, the man lived and Latvia took notice. The Latvian minister of defense took the opportunity on May 4, 2019, following the traditional regional military parade of May 4 in Jekabpils, to present a certificate to the U.S. Soldiers showing his, and the Latvian community's, thanks.
"These two U.S. Soldiers serve as an example to many other civilians in Latvia and around the world," said Dr. Artis Pabriks, Latvia's minister of defense. "Hopefully, this serves as an example of how to react when placed in emergency situations."
As the event unfolded, Yang displayed signs of nervousness taking a few smoke brakes and passing questions to Gorges if he did not feel comfortable answering them.
Yang mentioned that all of this attention is new to him. It all just happened so fast, one moment you're on a train for a haircut and the next you're being treated like a hero.
"I wouldn't say we're heroes," said Yang, as he stumbled over his words trying to find a way to describe everything that's happened. "I definitely think we helped that day. He could have hit his head, choked or anything if we weren't there, but we are definitely not heroes. We were just in the right place at the right time to help where we could."