Daily News

Airman Saves Lives During Round-Trip Flights

Dec 28, 2012

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A Reservist assigned to the 920th Rescue Wing here found himself in not one, but two life-saving situations during flights to and from his November unit training assembly .

Col. (Dr.) Lewis D. Neace, the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron commander, was called to action during the flight from Portland, Ore., Nov. 1. About an hour after takeoff, a call came over the intercom asking if there were any medical personnel on board.

"I looked around and clear in the back I see some people clustered around the aft galley," Neace said. "I went back and sure enough there was a guy flat on the floor."

Neace wasn't the only medical person flying the friendly skies that day. "There were actually two physicians back there, I introduced myself as an emergency room doctor and the one guy said 'I'm an obstetrician, I'm out of here' the other one said 'I'm an oncologist, I'm out of here too' and like boom these guys disappeared," said Neace, who took responsibility and administered the necessary medical treatment.

Neace, who works full time at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Ore., found himself in a similar situation on his return flight Nov. 6.

"I noticed a little commotion behind me, I turn around and this elderly fellow is gasping for air," Neace said. The elderly gentleman suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease that interferes with a person's ability to breathe. This combined with the altitude, dehydration and his personal oxygen tank in stow, led to a dire situation.

"His oxygen level was down around 70, normal is mid- to upper-90s," Neace said. "It was not good."

At Neace's request, a flight attendant brought over an oxygen tank, which seemed to work for a short time.

"His (oxygen levels) started looking better but then they started to drop again," Neace said.

The initial oxygen bottle that the airline attendant supplied was defective and a new one was needed stat.

"His oxygen level was declining and the oxygen bag was not inflated," Neace stated to the airline attendant. "We need another bottle or tell the pilot to divert to the closet airport."

Fortunately another oxygen bottle was available and the patient's oxygen level stabilized and he was able to make it all the way to Portland.

"I was glad I was able to help, and the patient and his wife were a fun couple," Neace said. "She was a rocket scientist; she designed rocket fuel and retired from Red Stone Arsenal, she has patents on the Patriot Missile. I forgot to ask what he did."

Neace recently received a thank you note from the couple and plans on sending them a 920th RQW patch.