JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (May 12, 2022) – It was a rainy Thursday morning when Maj. Jessica Maxim was dropping her children off at the Rainier Elementary school on Joint Base Lewis McChord.
She heard a horn blaring in the parent drop-off line which she Initially thought was just another impatient parent, until she saw a minivan hop over the curb and crash into the fence next to the school.
Assuming it was a medical emergency, she told her children to stay put and rushed over to assist.
Maj. Jessica Maxim, Chief of Medical Operations with First Corps Office of the Command Surgeon, immediately dialed 911 on her way to the vehicle hoping to get an ambulance there as soon as possible.
Arriving at the vehicle she noticed the mother was having a seizure.
“A bystander was putting the woman’s seat back to accommodate her seizure while others were attempting to get the kids from the vehicle, including a toddler whose legs were now pinned by the driver seat,” said Maxim, recounting the events of the accident. “The driver’s side rear minivan door was jammed from the incident and only opened about six inches."
Maxim rushed to the other side of the vehicle to get the kids out safely and, to her surprise, she noticed the engine revving and the tires spinning. While the driver was seizing she had pressed on the accelerator.
Realizing that others could be in danger Maxim yelled for everyone to get back. Nancy Peterson, the dean of the school, pulled the drivers feet off of the accelerator while Maxim jumped into the passenger side to pull the keys out of the ignition.
The driver continued to seize as she gasped for air with a considerable amount of liquid leaking from her mouth.
Maxim recounted, “Once the driver started to cough and gasp, getting her to a place where we could roll her to her side, better access her airway, and/or render additional aid if it became required was mandatory.”
Maxim, remaining calm and mentally rehearsing “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast," held her head to prevent it from hitting the ground while Peterson grabbed the woman's feet.
“I asked Peterson to take the kids inside where they would be safe and wouldn’t be so scared,” Maxim stated, continuing to recall the events. “Peterson did get the kids out and handed them off to other staff to return to the vehicle.”
Maxim noticed the woman had stopped seizing but was still unable to speak or sit up.
“I kept telling the driver, ‘breathe... it's ok... your children are safe... in case she became more aware,” said Maxim.
As Maxim and the driver were waiting for emergency services, a number of bystanders jumped in to assist. A fellow Soldier, another staff member and Greg Wilson, the school's principal.
Wilson directed traffic to ensure the safety of all, the Soldier grabbed the driver's phone to contact her spouse and the staff member was standing outside awaiting the ambulance to ensure they were directed to the correct area.
Maxim emphasized that helping this woman was a team effort and none of this would have been possible without everyone involved. She helped keep everyone focused on the priority, which was helping the driver.
When emergency services arrived, Maxim and a paramedic helped the woman to the ambulance where she was treated and taken care of.
Maxim states, “The Army gives us all general training to assess a situation and respond. That’s what myself and others did – we responded to aid another person and her kids.”