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Yellow Ribbon rescue

Maj. Fred Pounds, flight commander of clinical management with the 911th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, stands in front of a C-130 Hercules at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Jan. 9, 2016. Pounds helped to save a woman’s life during a Yellow Ribbon Event in Orlando, Florida, in December. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marjorie A. Bowlden)

Maj. Fred Pounds, flight commander of clinical management with the 911th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, stands in front of a C-130 Hercules at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Jan. 9, 2016. Pounds helped to save a woman’s life during a Yellow Ribbon Event in Orlando, Florida, in December. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marjorie A. Bowlden)

PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa -- Maj. Fred Pounds, flight commander of clinical management with the 911th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here, went to Orlando to attend a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration seminar, expecting to unwind and adjust to life back home. Instead, he ended up averting a crisis and subsequently saving a stranger's life.

"Whether it happened at a Yellow Ribbon event or down the street from my house, I probably would have done the same thing," said Pounds. "I just did what anyone else would have done."

Pounds returned from a four-month deployment to Southwest Asia in September 2015. Like all Air Force Reserve Airmen recently home from a deployment, he was offered the opportunity to attend up to two Yellow Ribbon events to ease the adjustment process. He and his wife decided to take the December trip to Orlando.

On the morning of Dec. 19, 2015, Pounds and his wife left their room to attend a speech on resiliency by former Air Force Reserve Chaplain John Groth. During the speech, Pounds said that he noticed a man at a nearby table repeatedly asking his wife if she was alright. Instead of replying, her head rolled back, and she became unresponsive.

"I immediately went over and asked if anything was wrong," said Pounds. "He told me his wife wasn't responding, and I instructed him that we needed to lower her to the floor."

At this point, several people gathered around to see what was going on. Pounds identified himself as a nurse, and a man standing next to him said that he knew CPR. They checked for her pulse, but there was none to be found.

Pounds, who has been a critical care nurse for 16 years, has encountered a plethora of different health crises and situations over the length of his career. However, the woman's lack of pulse was not at all what he was expecting.

"I usually see people that just pass out and come to within two seconds, and that's what I was expecting at first," he said. "But to check for her pulse and not find one, and to see that she wasn't breathing, was a little scary. I realized immediately that we had to do CPR."

The two men began to try to revive the woman, Pounds doing compressions and the other trying to control her airway.

"I'm not even sure how long it was because it all happened so fast," said Pounds. "But at some point, she gave a few gasps and then started to breathe on her own."

The two men rolled the woman onto her side and waited for the paramedics to arrive. In the meantime, Pounds discovered that the woman had recently had surgery and hadn't been feeling well for a few days preceding the event.

When the paramedics arrived, Pounds followed them out to the ambulance. Though her blood pressure was still low, she was improving and was able to talk before being transported to the hospital.

Airmen often train for real-life situations and crises like this one, but applying that training isn't always so simple, said Lt. Col. Bryan Hutcheson, chief nurse with the 911 AES.

"Airmen with the Air Evacuation Squadron spend about 1,000 hours training for every hour that we spend in that kind of situation and having to make a decision," said Hutcheson. "It can catch you off guard, and it's sometimes hard to apply the training when you need it. The only thing I can ask of our nurses and techs is to be ready when that moment comes."

Pounds also said that being ready for a crisis like this one is crucial. He encourages other Airmen to confidently step up to the plate when crisis strikes, even if they're not part of the medical field.

"Don't be afraid to act," said Pounds. "Even if you don't have the specific training for an event like this, try to offer whatever help you can."

Though Pounds humbly said that he'd done what anyone else would do and doesn't want recognition for his actions, Hutcheson disagrees.

"You'd hope that everyone else would do the same, but that's not always the case," said Hutcheson. "His actions were absolutely a testament to his training, his character, and his willingness and commitment to be ready at all times."

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