It happened in February. A snowstorm had hit West Point causing a Code Red shutdown. Maj. Will Fuller, an operations officer and instructor in the Department of Physical Education at the U.S. Military Academy, was driving by the Hudson River on his way to pick up his child from childcare.
Usually, he would drive through the Goat Trail on Bear Mountain but decided, for his safety, to take an alternate route. Unbeknown to him at the time, taking this route would put him in a situation that would test his ability as an emergency medical technician.
“I went the long route on 403 to be a bit safer and drive slowly under the weather conditions,” Fuller said. “During my drive, I saw the aftermath of a vehicular accident right after it had happened.”
Fuller added, he knew the area well. He knew how long it would take for the Volunteer Ambulance Corps and other emergency personnel to respond with the hazardous weather conditions and wounded patients. And so, Fuller took it upon himself to triage the patients with the little EMT equipment he had.
“I stopped my car and started assessing the situation and then assessing the patients to see what needed to be rendered,” Fuller said while describing the scene. “Then, once emergency personnel arrived with their medical equipment, I merely directed them to the patients and informed them on the type of injuries the patients had.”
For Fuller, getting EMT certified wasn’t something he decided to do on a whim. He recalled incidents that provoked a need to be ready for the unexpected.
In the past, before getting his certification, he would often come across car accidents and instead of knowing what to do to treat the injured, he would do his best with the little knowledge he had to help.
“I was uncomfortable with not being able to provide efficient care and I prefer, in moderately stressful situations, for training to kick in and to know exactly what to do,” Fuller said. “It’s inevitable in life that hazardous situations will occur, so it’s a motivation for me to be as useful as I can for my family and for the people.”
Before taking EMT courses, two separate incidents triggered his call to action. The first incident happened last year. Fuller witnessed and responded to a car accident on the Palisades, right before Bear Mountain Circle.
The car spun on the road. One passenger was fine, but the other passenger had been ejected from the vehicle and collided against the side of a mountain. The unlucky passenger was buried in snow. Fuller along with others who assisted, had to find him and dig him out.
It took time to discover his location and when they finally found him, he had a complete loss of consciousness, Fuller said.
“He was in decompensated shock, his vitals were in poor condition and he was dying,” Fuller added. “I was not 100% sure what to do in that circumstance. I thought to myself, ‘I can check his vitals, I can assess his airway, I can try to move him out of all this bush in a manner that won’t compromise his spine, I can perform CPR, but I wasn’t really sure of which thing to do first.’ I wasn’t trained to help that person.”
It took some time for the volunteer firefighters to show up. Fuller spoke with one of the firefighters and they explained to him that the unfortunate victim was going to pass away due to the extent of his injuries and there was nothing he could’ve done to prevent it, Fuller added.
“He was too far gone — he was ejected at a high speed and that was one of those instances where I wished I had the proper training on what to do,” Fuller said.
Another incident happened in early 2020 when Fuller’s one-year-old son, John, on two separate occasions, stopped aspirating.
“There are certain protocols one must follow to dislodge an object from a baby’s throat and because of that I decided I don’t ever want to wait for someone to show up to render aid,” Fuller said. “I would rather just know what I’m doing and do it myself.”
Fuller said, following the incidents, he went to night school for one semester and received an EMT certification at Dutchess Community College.
“There’s no doubt that what (Fuller) did to respond to the recent emergency on Goat Trail is very consistent with his character and his commitment to service,” Col. Nick Gist, director of the Department of Physical Education said. “A person doesn’t seek these situations out; they simply happen, and you respond accordingly. When there is a combination of being at the right place, at the right time, with the right skills, a person who needs medical assistance will be impacted for the rest of their life by your commitment to them and Maj. Fuller is a prime example of that.”