Soldier recognized for life-saving efforts in South Korea
July 18, 2008
SEOUL — An 18th Medical Logistics Battalion soldier was recognized Wednesday for actions that might have saved the life of a Korean truck driver. Staff Sgt. Mitchell Calhoun was driving from Waegwon to Daegu on Sunday when he saw 31-year-old Lee Young-han thrown from his truck after it spun out of control on rain-soaked Highway 4.
Calhoun, who had recently completed expert field medical badge training, stopped his car to help.
Seeing Lee had a head injury, Calhoun went to his car to get an emergency trauma dressing. When he got back with the dressing, Lee had stopped breathing, and he no longer had a pulse.
Calhoun’s training kicked in.
"About the second set of chest compressions he started gasping for breath real hard and started breathing," Calhoun said.
Calhoun stayed with Lee until an ambulance arrived, briefed rescuers on the extent of Lee’s injuries, then helped police direct traffic until the wreckage could be moved.
A laboratory technician, Calhoun said he helped with trauma care at a clinic in Iraq, but never expected to render emergency care outside of a combat situation. "This is different for me because it was so unexpected," he said. "[In Iraq] we knew what to expect and we had facilities and equipment set up."
Police presented Calhoun with a watch and a certificate during Wednesday’s ceremony at the Chilgok police station.
Heo Won-seok, a senior police officer with the Chilgok Police Department, said Calhoun’s actions were not only selfless, but also uncommon. "Other Korean drivers are busy going on their way after seeing the accidents, some are even cursing the injured because they would further add to the traffic congestions."
After the ceremony Calhoun met with Lee’s sister, who thanked him for saving her brother’s life.
"That was pretty emotional," Calhoun said. "Everybody in the room had a hard time holding back tears."
According to Heo, Lee is in critical condition at Daegu Catholic Hospital. He is breathing on his own and speaking with family members, but doctors cannot guarantee he will live. He is also paralyzed from the chest down.
"He would have been dead instantly at the accident scene without the perfect emergency treatment the American soldier gave to him," Heo said. "The soldier bought him a chance to fight for his life."