MOORESTOWN, N.J. – Six New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers were recognized May 19 for saving an individual’s life at a COVID-19 vaccination site.
It all began close to 7 p.m., Feb. 15, at a site that had been open less than a month.
“We got a call over the radio, ‘We need a medic,’” said Spc. Angel Ferreira-Fernandez, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard. “’A patient fell on the floor and needs assistance getting up and he needs to be assessed to make sure that he isn’t injured.’”
Ferreira-Fernandez, a Newark-based emergency medical technician, and one of the site’s paramedics grabbed a monitor and emergency medical gear and raced to the vaccination site’s entrance.
Ferreira-Fernandez is part of a group of Citizen-Soldiers supporting the site’s health care workers. They assist in temperature screening, registering and guiding people through the various stations, and monitoring people after they are vaccinated.
While civilian medical professionals administer the vaccine, the Army National Guard combat medics are there to assist when there is a medical emergency.
“I asked him what’s going on, he said, ‘I’m fine. I just fell and I need help getting back up,’” said Ferreira-Fernandez. “He offered me his hand, and as I took his hand, I could see how his skin color was changing.”
Realizing the man was cyanotic – low blood oxygen – Ferreira-Fernandez knew there was more going on than just an individual falling on the floor. Ferreira-Fernandez and the paramedic recognized the patient was going into cardiac arrest.
“I took his radial pulse, the paramedic took his carotid pulse, to try to assess if he has a pulse or not.”
There was no pulse.
Ferreira-Fernandez began chest compressions, stopping briefly to put out a radio call for all medics to come to their location.
“Within 30-seconds, Spc. (Kevin D.) Tran and Pfc. (Daniel E.) Magay was there to assist me. I have complete trust and confidence in Army medics based on the training they go through.”
While all this was happening, Staff Sgt. Matthew L. Rehl, Staff Sgt. Manuel C. Rodriguez and Spc. Jason M. Vaccarella handled crowd control and set up screens to provide patient privacy.
Once they were able to get an endotracheal tube down his throat to enable him to breathe easier, they were able to get a pulse.
“The ambulance team took him away to the hospital. We had successfully intubated him at that point and stabilized him,” Ferreira-Fernandez said.
At the May 19 ceremony, Col. Lisa J. Hou D.O., interim adjutant general, presented the Army Commendation Medal to Ferreira-Fernandez, Magay and Tran, and the Army Achievement Medal to Rehl, Rodriguez and Vaccarella for their exceptional achievement and heroism.