MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
There’s no perfect time or place to contend with a medical emergency. But if it’s going to happen, one would hope it wouldn’t be 14 miles from the nearest emergency room under near-blizzard conditions.
Airmen assigned to the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron and 5th Healthcare Operations Squadron teamed up to respond to a medical emergency under those exact circumstances at Minot AFB, March 11.
During severe weather events, snow on Minot is plowed almost as soon as it begins to accumulate, explained Staff Sgt. Cody Hill, 5th CES day shift snow lead. Snow removal teams work in phases to clear the roads on base, starting with the main gate, the command post, the weapons storage area and other critical infrastructure. Hill and his team were hard at work clearing “phase one” assets Saturday morning when he heard something unusual over the radio.
“I got a call that someone in the base housing area was having a medical emergency and we needed to ensure the first responders could get them off base,” recalled Hill. "Two of the main roads in that area had already been cleared, but because of the winds, the snow was drifting back onto the roads as soon as we cleared it."
Meanwhile, Senior Airman Easton Jones, 5th HCOS Ambulance Services Flight aerospace medical technician, and Alyssa Rau, a paramedic contracted with the 5th Medical Group, were responding via ambulance to the same radio call. Hill’s team had already cleared the area surrounding the 5th MDG clinic, but the wind had been working against them from the minute they left the premises.
About a foot and a half of snow had been blown directly against the ambulance garage door, explained Jones. With help from Rau, he managed to get the emergency vehicle through the snowdrift and was on the move in a matter of minutes.
Back in the snowplow, Hill was making moves of his own.
“I got on the radio and told all available personnel to take a break from whatever they were plowing and make sure Bomber Boulevard was cleared all the way from Peacekeeper Place to the main gate,” said Hill. “I was just trying to ensure they could get to the patient and get them off base, because I knew Highway 83 would be relatively clear once they made it past the main gate.”
Jones and Rau made their way steadily to the scene of the emergency. Upon arrival, they safely transported the patient into the ambulance and began the 14-mile journey to the nearest emergency room.
Thanks to Hill’s forethought and the quick action of his team, Jones was able to drive the ambulance off base without incident while Rau attended to the patient in the back. Once off base, the ambulance was the only vehicle on the road. Driving as quickly as the circumstances allowed, Jones navigated snowdrifts, icy pavement and strong winds for 14 miles in whiteout conditions before delivering the patient to off-base emergency room personnel.
“After getting to the hospital and seeing how relieved the patient was, I felt really good,” said Jones, acknowledging the gravity of the situation. “I definitely drove back to base much calmer.”
The patient received appropriate care and was returned home in good health the very same day. Jones said the lesson here is that members of Team Minot should never think twice about requesting help in an emergency, regardless of weather or any other factor.
“No matter what, we’ll get there,” he affirmed.