SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Two Joint Task Force-Bravo members provided life-saving first aid to a Honduran boy injured when a vehicle struck him in the Arturo Quezada residential area of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 9, 2014.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Daniel Gruben and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Yoakam were returning to Soto Cano Air Base after a day of meetings in Tegucigalpa when they witnessed a truck striking the boy, Jose, at highway speed. The impact hurled Jose into the air and then he landed and tumbled on the pavement.
"After seeing such an impact like that, we knew that he was going to need all the help he could get," said Gruben. "Staff Sgt. Yoakam is a highly trained first responder, and he wanted to make sure the young man's earliest attention would be the best it possibly could be."
Once they parked their vehicle at the scene to impede traffic from driving through the area, Yoakam and Gruben proceeded to assess the situation. When they first approached the injured child, a crowd of bystanders had gathered and were attempting to pull Jose off the road. Yoakam knew this could further injure him and took over providing medical aid.
"I saw them pulling on the boy's arms and attempting to move his head, which stood to permanently damage his spinal cord," stated Yoakam. "I secured Jose's neck and shoulders before carefully pulling him out of traffic."
Jose had sustained bone-deep trauma to half of his face, teeming with packed-in gravel, as well as a large protrusion of swelling on his forehead. Yoakam kept Jose's head elevated and continued to hold it in a safe posture until help could arrive. When Jose regained consciousness, Yoakam kept him calm, collected his vitals, assessed whether he was in shock, and did a basic examination for fractures and internal bleeding.
"Initially he was in a bit of shock and was confused and not answering questions," said Yoakam. "In a minute, however, Jose started to respond to voice commands, react to pain and began to understand what was going on."
While Yoakam tended to the patient, Gruben contacted local authorities requesting an ambulance and police to assist at the scene and phoned the Joint Operations Center at Soto Cano Air Base to keep them abreast of the situation. Once help was on the way, Gruben worked with some of the bystanders in keeping the crowd under control, scavenged the area for supplies that could help Jose survive and directed traffic.
The emergency medical team arrived at the scene 20 minutes after the call for assistance was placed and transported Jose to a local hospital 10 minutes later.
Although there were language and cultural barriers between them and the Honduran crowd, Gruben said everyone worked together to save Jose's life. "It was a good thing to see so many people work together to help Jose," added Gruben. "Two of the gentlemen from the crowd held a towel over him to block the sun, others helped direct traffic, and everyone expressed a lot of concern. It didn't matter if we were Honduran or American - we all wanted him to be okay."
U. S. Army Col. Kirk Dorr, Joint Task Force-Bravo commander, explained that Gruben and Yoakam perfectly portray the image of those who comprise Joint Task Force-Bravo.
"The servicemembers of JTF-Bravo have been described as noble people performing noble deeds. The actions of Capt. Gruben and Staff Sgt. Yoakam exemplify this description," expressed Dorr. "We are connected to the people of this region in so many ways, and it makes you so proud to see the compassion and care these leaders demonstrated while swinging into immediate action to attend to this seriously injured young boy."
No updates to Jose's condition have been received at this time.