WRNMMC’s MEDEVAC Assists Capital Beltway Accident Victims
Story by Bernard Little on 01/11/2019
Returning to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from an outbound mission at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland proved to be anything but routine for WRNMMC’s joint-service MEDEVAC team the morning of Jan. 2.
On their way back to the medical center after taking a patient to Andrews that morning, the four-member team encountered a serious multi-vehicle accident involving a semi-trailer truck and four other vehicles on the Capital Beltway near New Hampshire Avenue.
“[Our] ambulance drivers, Army Spc. Mahadi Haque and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Stephen Bubenko, noticed that we had come up on [the] accident [and] there was no EMS or police present,” explained Air Force Capt. Amber Hadjis, a nurse on the MEDEVAC team who primarily works in WRNMMC’s surgical intensive care unit.
“Several cars were involved [in the accident] and people were outside of their cars appearing to need help,” Hadjis continued. “As soon as we stopped, Specialist Haque and HM3 Bubenko jumped out of the ambulance and started triaging and assessing those who needed help,” she added.
Haque, an Army combat medic since June 2015, has been assigned to WRNMMC since January 2016. In addition to the MEDEVAC team, he has worked in WRNMMC’s medical/surgical and neonatal intensive care units. Bubenko has been in the Navy since October 2013 as a corpsman.
ICU registered nurse, Air Force Capt. Lyndsey Rigby, a six-year Air Force veteran, was also a part of the MEDEVAC team that day. She has worked with the MEDEVAC since September.
Hadjis explained that the accident resulted from the semi truck rear-ending a car causing a chain reaction involving the other three vehicles. “The man whose car was hit by the semi had been pulled from his vehicle and was standing unsteadily. Specialist Haque and Captain Rigby lowered him to the ground while HM3 Bubenko and I grabbed supplies [including] a backboard, C-collar, and some dressings for a laceration to the back of his head where it was bleeding,” she added.
“We put him onto the backboard and stretcher and got him into our ambulance. Specialist Haque and Captain Rigby even helped direct traffic to ensure the scene was as safe as possible, and HM3 Bubenko helped coordinate a plan for the patient,” Hadjis continued.
She said civilian EMS arrived on the scene after several minutes.
“I stayed with the patient in the ambulance and set up a monitor to get his vitals,” Hadjis continued. “The patient was stable, but he did not remember what had happened, in addition to the laceration to his head. I explained this to the paramedic, and then found out that they needed help transporting the accident victims to a local civilian hospital.
“Our team made sure this was alright with our military leadership, which it was, and we transported the male victim to Suburban Hospital [in Bethesda, Maryland] for further work-up,” Hadjis explained. “We arrived there, gave our report to the doctors and nurses, and they upgraded him to a level 2 trauma patient due to positive seat belt signs,” she added. Positive seat belt signs are abrasions and/or contusions associated with seat belt restraint, the nurse explained.
Hadjis had high praise for the action of her team’s two medical techs, Haque and Bubenko, in their response to the situation.
“[They] did not hesitate to render assistance,” she said. “They made the decision to stop, as Captain Rigby and I were in the back of the ambulance and couldn’t tell what had happened. As soon as we stopped they immediately started assessing the situation and deciding how to help and formulating a plan of action.”
Bubenko explained that this was why he joined the Navy to care for and assist people.
“I pursued a job in the medical field because I want to help people, [and] being a Navy corpsman, I can do just that,” said the native of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Haque shared similar sentiments.
“I’m originally from Lansdale, Pennsylvania and did firefighting and EMS there as a civilian,” he explained. “The medical field offers a uniquely rewarding feeling that can’t be measured,” the Army medic added.
Rigby, a Michigan native, also expressed a passion for helping people as a motivating force in her becoming a nurse. She’s been an ICU RN for more than nine years. “I have a passion and drive to be a part of the healing process. Being a nurse isn’t a job, it’s a calling,” she said.
Hadjis, who hails from Minnesota, has been assigned to WRB for two of her six years in the Air Force. The Air Force captain explained she became a nurse for the enjoyment of “helping people, figuring out disease processes, and seeing people get better.”
Although the accident was tragic for the victims, Hadjis said the day was “very rewarding” in that no lives were lost and the MEDEVAC team was able to assist the injured.
“Our team functioned great together,” Hadjis said. “We all had a role and all worked together to get the patient to the higher level of care that he needed. For never doing a civilian EMS transport before, I think it went really well. The patient and his wife, who we called to update, were very grateful,” she added.
“We have since spoken to the [accident victim’s] family,” Haque furthered. “The patient is stable but suffered rib and spinal fractures from the accident, in addition to the injuries described by Captain Hadjis. His injuries required surgery,” he continued.
Haque said there were five patients total from the five vehicles involved in the accident.
“The four of us [on the MEDEVAC team] worked very well together despite the change of environment, different scopes of practice, experience and different branches of service,” Haque added.