Reserve medic puts Air Force training into action

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Sunday, May 23, 2021, didn’t go quite as Senior Airman Holly Lee expected it to.

Though she was excited for her nephew to be born soon, the sequence of events leading up to his birth did not go according to expectations. What should have been a normal, quiet Sunday instead came to life with a blood-curdling scream.

“It was around seven in the morning, and my sister-in-law, Christi, was downstairs sleeping,” said Lee, “and all of a sudden I just heard everyone screaming and panicking, especially my brother.”

Christi Palmer, the expectant mother, had been found unresponsive, not breathing, her skin blue; the father-to-be was by her side, helpless.

Hearing the commotion, Lee sprung to action.

“The first thing I had to do was move her from the mattress to the floor for stability,” said Lee. “Honestly, I don’t know where the strength came from for me to do that, but I picked her up and got her to the floor. After that, I had to clear her airway and get her breathing again.”

Once she could breathe and regained consciousness, Lee said Palmer began panicking and worrying about the baby, so she grabbed her stethoscope to locate the baby’s heartbeat, reassuring the mother everything was going to be okay.

“Holly was quick to react to the situation, and to be so young, she was so calm and professional,” said Capt. (ret.) Michael Layer, neighbor and former volunteer firefighter. “She immediately noticed the mother’s tongue was swollen and constricting her airway, so she did what she had to—she manually adjusted her head and tongue, to open up her airway and prevent her from choking.”

Layer, having 17 years of experience in all types of emergencies, took to checking Palmer’s vitals, citing a dangerously faint pulse but no sign of her being in labor. He and Lee worked together to keep Palmer stable, and Lee managed to calmly dial 9-1-1 and request help.

The duo continued to monitor her and keep her breathing and alert until paramedics arrived on the scene.

“It turns out Christi had pre-eclampsia, and her blood pressure got too high resulting in a seizure,” said Layer. “Luckily, mother and baby are fine, but it would have been a completely different, and sad, story had Holly not been there.”

Lee’s professional response stems from the training she’s received as a member of the Air Force Reserve. Specifically, she’s an aerospace medical technician, or medic for short, for the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

To become a medic, Airmen, after graduating from Basic Military Training, are required to complete a 98-day course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, that consists of two phases. The first phase is a classroom environment, and upon completion, results in National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians accreditation. The second phase deals with hands-on, clinical training.

“I definitely wouldn’t have known what to do had it not been for my training for my job here,” she said. “As a medic, I have that EMT training from tech school, so I was prepared and knew what to look for and what to do to get her breathing again.”

Lee is a traditional reservist and currently spends her civilian time working as a consultant, but she plans to build on the foundation set by her Air Force experience when she starts her undergraduate studies at the University of South Alabama in the fall.