He was going through the motions of Thursday nights before a unit training assembly, waiting for his baggage, when he saw out of the peripheral of his eye that a middle-aged woman had fallen unconscious. Surrounded by a group of people, with a tone of panic, he heard a woman say “CPR.”
With more than 20 years’ experience being an active-duty, Reserve and civilian firefighter/paramedic, Herman knew time was running out for the woman named Sue.
“The situation changed immediately from a woman who was lying down and exchanging words, to a woman who had become a lifeless body on the floor,” Herman said.
Herman immediately stepped in and assisted another woman helping Sue, a nurse, with chest compressions.
“At this point, only a few moments had passed when police officer brought an AED over,” he said. “I stepped in, analyzed her heart rhythm [with an automated external defibrillator], delivered the first round of energy, started CPR, analyzed her heart and delivered a second round of energy. By the second shock she regained a palpable pulse.”
After Herman had utilized the AED, airport fire crews, including Senior Airman Todd Williams 434th Civil Engineer Squadron fire fighter, responded and assumed care of the woman, who had experienced a cardiac event. She had become their patient; Herman walked away from the event, only providing police officers with his contact information.
“I didn’t hear much after that,” Herman said. “. . . Until a few weeks later when I received a call from Sue, thanking me for my actions.”
Herman said the woman he had saved called after completing rehab and was returning back to work. Thanking him for saving her life, he said he rarely knows what happens to patients after responding to emergencies, let alone receive a phone call.
“Nothing I did was at all heroic,” he said. “Everyone in the Air Force is required to take self-aid and buddy care. Everyone would have and so often do respond in the same way – this just happens to be my occupation.”
A fire apparatus engineer for the City of Omaha, Nebraska, Herman has learned to dissociate the emotional aspects of being a firefighter/paramedic. His ability to step in can be attributed to the many years of on-the-job experience and external Air Force training that has given him the ability to mentally take every emergency situation as a mental flow chart of “if-then statements.”
“It doesn’t matter that I’m a firefighter,” Herman said. “I responded in this situation because that’s what we – as Airmen – are trained to do. It’s service before self; it’s necessary.”
The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. Men and women from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.
Story by Staff Sgt. Katrina Heikkinen