SAN ANTONIO — When Air Force Senior Airmen Stevie Mark Brown and Sgt. Patrick Doody were driving up Ray Ellison Drive and spotted a boy running and screaming for help on the morning of June 17, they didn't yet know what was in store for them.
“We asked him what happened,” Brown recalled. “He didn't even talk to us. He ran right past. I guess he was frantic.”
About 100 yards ahead, a man lay facedown in the middle of the road. That man was the boy's father, Charles White, and he'd just been hit by a car.
When the two airmen, who were medically trained first responders in the Air Force's security forces squadron, saw White, they were taken aback. White had sustained a life-threatening head injury and was bleeding profusely.
“When we first came up on the scene, it was shocking to see somebody like that,” Brown said. “But then my training kicked in.”
The two men jumped from their vehicle and ran to White, rolling him over to access his airway before starting CPR.
Ten minutes later, paramedics arrived and took over; the ranking SAPD officer at the scene instructed Brown and Doody to go to the hospital immediately.
“My hands were drenched in blood,” Brown recalled, and said that White had blood in his mouth when Doody was giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
White didn't survive his injuries, but Brown said he couldn't have slept at night if he didn't try to help him; what he and Doody did was just part of their jobs.
“As wingmen and first responders, we're here to save lives and minimize loss,” Brown said. “That's our instinct — to help people — as law-enforcement members. We couldn't stand by and just watch him go.”
The airmen's actions were noble, but could have been dangerous.
Good Samaritans who are moved to stop and render aid to someone in a life-threatening emergency situation are protected by the Good Samaritan Act, said SAPD spokesman Roger Zuniga.
“Anyone offering aid in good faith and trying to save someone injured is covered by the Good Samaritan Act. However,” Zuniga added, “you cannot force them to accept help.”
Zuniga also points out that bystanders are not required to help because of the risks involved.
“Understand that you put yourself at risk, especially with strangers, of being contaminated by blood-borne diseases, which is why you are not 'obligated' to help.”
Those who wish to help though, should make their personal safety their primary concern, emphasized Christian Bove, a spokesman for the San Antonio Fire Department, which dispatches emergency medical services.
“They should never put themselves in a dangerous position where they could risk injury as well,” Bove wrote in an email. “That includes assessing the scene, checking for possible traffic hazards, or other types of dangerous situations.”
The first thing anyone should do in a life-threatening emergency situation is to note your location and call 911 to get emergency medical personnel and police on the way.
After that, those who are properly trained can start providing the victim with basic first aid or CPR, but, Bove said, “a good Samaritan should never perform mouth-to-mouth on a person they don't know because of the risk of infections diseases. Hands-only CPR should be performed, and if you don't know CPR, all of the SAFD's 911 dispatchers are certified paramedics who can walk you through the steps over the phone.”
Nurse Nancy Meidinger, the health services adviser for the Red Cross in Texas, said getting first-aid training with the Red Cross is a good way to prepare in the event of an emergency because, without training, even those with good intentions may make things worse.
“If they're not trained, they can do more harm than good,” Meidinger said, “both to the victim and to themselves.”