SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -
A pre-Halloween storm swept through the region, knocking down trees and power lines, blocking roads and leaving many Massachusetts residents without heat, electricity or both.
In response to this natural disaster, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick mobilized members of the Massachusetts National Guard in an effort to quickly help the recovery efforts.
Pfc. Rachel Mingo, of Seekonk, Mass., was working with a storm cleanup crew when they came upon a car accident, Halloween Day.
“I got out of the vehicle, grabbed my aid bag and went to assess the people involved in the accident,” said Mingo.
Being the first medical personnel on the scene, she quickly evaluated the situation and began to stabilize two female passengers in one of the vehicles.
“They were shaken up, both were conscious,” said Mingo, “One had a bump on the head, the other one had a jaw injury.”
She remained with the passengers until relieved by paramedics.
“When you see something,” said Mingo, “you need to respond to it.”
Spc. Brandi-Rose Germain of Fitchburg, Mass. and Spc. Shannon Swanson of Whitinsville, Mass., were working with tree clearing teams in and around the Forrest Park Manor Apartments, which has a large population of elderly residents, had been hit hard by the storm. While many of the residents have moved in with relatives, others have not. Some have nowhere to go, others refused to leave their homes.
When an assistant to one of the residents told Chandra Cripps, resident services coordinator, City of Springfield Housing Authority, that one of the residents said she was cold and was refusing to get out of bed, Cripps headed towards the Guardsmen.
“I asked if any of them were medics,” said Cripps, “just to come and check her out, to see what the situation was ... to see if it was serious or not.”
Swanson replied that she was a medic. Together Cripps, Swanson and another Soldier, went to the resident’s apartment.
“We saw that she was in bed … she couldn’t move,” said Swanson, a resident of Whitinsville, Mass., “That’s when I called for Germain.”
Germain quickly arrived on the scene and together the Soldiers went to work.
“She was conscious, she was kind of in and out,” said Germain.
The resident’s apartment had no heat or electricity and an air conditioner was still in the window allowing the cold outside air into the small apartment.
The medics began to treat her for hypothermia; a life-threatening condition that occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If left untreated, hypothermia can be fatal. All members of the Army receive training on how to spot and treat hypothermia.
The Soldiers were carrying thermal blankets with them.
“The hypothermia blankets that the National Guard has … has heat packs inside that react to body heat,” said Germain.
The heat packs use a person’s own body heat to help warm the blanket. Unfortunately there was an obstacle.
“She had no body heat,” said Germain, “So we stuck them underneath our tops and put it against our skin, so that they would warm up and then we put it (the blanket) on her.”
The blanket worked and the woman’s vital signs began to improve, but not to where it was safe for her to remain at home. The paramedics were called and the resident was transported to the hospital.
Afterwards, Cripps was happy that she made the decision to approach the Soldiers.
“Would I have known she was hypothermic? Which she was … no,” said Cripps, “Glad they were here.”
Even though the medics had a different mission when the day began, they are happy the way it turned out.
“We just saved one lady who could be somebody’s grandmother … somebody’s mom,” said Germain, “It felt good.”
This was the first time Swanson had treated non-military personnel.
“We’re medics,” said Swanson, “we do what we’re trained to do, whether it’s on a civilian or whether it’s on a Soldier. If we hadn’t used our skills then that lady wouldn’t have made it through the night.”
After the ceremony, Mayor Domenic Sarno, City of Springfield, took the time to shake hands with the Soldiers and personally thank them for their actions.
“I’m just so proud to have the National Guard here,” said Sarno, “Their professionalism, their courage and their compassion … Spc. Germain said ‘I love my job,’ that said it all.”