This past summer while on leave, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Amber Lash did what most 20-year-old Service Members do while on vacation: travel, visit with family and enjoy their time off. Little did Lash know her medical training as a pharmacy technician at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center would be mustered during her time off.
Following a day of activities while visiting her brother in Seattle, Lash and her family decided to sit down for a meal at a favorite restaurant where she describes the atmosphere as “a normal restaurant experience.” Soon that atmosphere changed.
“There was a (patron) at another table who didn't look like he was well,” explains Lash, a native of Detroit. “We noticed the group start to panic and I immediately went over there because it looked like (he) had lost consciousness.”
Following a quick assessment which revealed the patron had no pulse, Lash directed others to call for help, placed the patron on the ground and began CPR, rotating with a nurse who also happened to be dining at the restaurant. The pair continued resuscitation efforts for approximately 20 minutes until help arrived.
“Before the medics got there, he had regained his pulse and let out a small breath of air, so that kind of gave us hope,” recalls Lash. “Once the medics got there, they checked his pupils to see if they were dilated, which they were and started giving him different injections.”
According to Lash, she asked the medics which medications they were giving the man so she could relay that information to the man’s wife, who was now in a panic.
“As a pharmacy technician, I do know what most medications are and what they do,” explains Lash. “I let the wife know what the medications were and how it was going to help.”
Although basic life support certifications are only required by healthcare personnel, both military and civilians, who have direct patient care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where Lash works at the hospital’s Inpatient Pharmacy section, all personnel are encouraged to train in the life-saving procedures.
“The pharmacy is not direct patient care, so it's very rare that we have to utilize (CPR training)” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Karen Stegall, noncommissioned officer in charge, Department of Pharmacy, LRMC. “The fact that (Lash) was able to take that skill set, take initiative and save someone is a phenomenal feat, especially in a non-patient care setting.”
Stegall, who is Lash’s second-line supervisor, explains she isn’t surprised the Airman acted the way she did, as she describes Lash as a model Service Member ahead of her peers.
“(The act) definitely speaks highly to her readiness, her ability to retain information and act on the information. I think it's phenomenal, courageous and very brave of her,” said Stegall. “If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready and she's a testament of just that.”
Following the incident, Lash returned to her table where her family stared in shock.
“My mom was crying but was also proud along with the rest of my family,” said Lash. “Now, after seeing that and then knowing that it could happen at any time to anyone, they're also going to go get their certification to be able to do life support if they needed to.”
Prior to going on leave, the pharmacy technician had recently gone through the biennial training to renew her basic life support certifications, a training she never imagined she would put into practice.
“I thought ‘I can't imagine what I would do in (a life-saving) situation if that ever happened to me’,” said Lash. “It's really important to take the training serious because it's not something you would only do in a hospital or in a clinic, it could happen anywhere.
“After all of that, I was just happy I was able to help and know what I know from the job position that I'm in,” said Lash. “Hopefully in the future I won't have to (resuscitate anyone) again, but to know that I'm able to help someone in need and their family, that's the best part.”