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U.S. Airman, Sailor save Peruvian soldier's life during New Horizons mission

HUANTA, Peru -- The skillful response of a U.S. Airman and a U.S. sailor saved the life of a Peruvian soldier here Sunday. 

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Clark and Petty Officer 3rd Class Brennen Lawson were driving the soldier to a nearby hospital when his condition began to worsen. The team was transporting the Peruvian soldier to the hospital to address his severe abdominal pain, but the bumpy drive proved to be more harrowing than they had anticipated. 

The soldier, who moments before had been writhing in pain, grew silent. He had stopped breathing. 

Sergeant Clark, an Air Force medical technician for Task Force New Horizons - Peru 2008, shifted his focus from relieving the patient's pain to restoring critical life functions. 

He ordered the truck driver, who was rushing through the unpaved roads of Peru, to stop the vehicle while he administered rescue breathing to the soldier. One rescue breath and seconds later, the soldier was revived. 

"Basically I did what the Air Force trained us to do in a situation like this," said Sergeant Clark. "I gave the Peruvian soldier the same level of care I'd provide a U.S. soldier -- or any patient under our care." 

Petty Officer Lawson, who found the soldier inside his tent in extreme pain, alerted Sergeant Clark, who instantly responded, deciding to quickly transport the soldier to the hospital. The soldier was suffering from severe abdominal pain, and as time passed, the pained worsened, becoming more intense and unbearable. 

Communication between the soldier and Air Force medic was challenging; the Peruvian soldier did not speak English, and Sergeant Clark spoke very little Spanish. Communication rested almost entirely on hand gestures. 

"His vital signs were stable at the time," said Sergeant Clark. "We immediately loaded the soldier on a litter and into the back of a pick-up truck for transport to Huanta Hospital. The soldier was screaming and moaning continuously." 

The sergeant inserted an intravenous saline solution in the soldier's arm. After about 15 minutes the soldier abruptly stopped shouting, and according to Sergeant Clark he was unresponsive. "I had the driver stop and found the patient in respiratory arrest. I gave him one rescue breath and within two seconds he coughed, breathed and started moaning again." 

Sergeant Clark instructed the driver to continue toward the hospital, where they arrived five minutes later to carry the soldier to the emergency room for immediate abdominal surgery. 

For members of the New Horizons team, the opportunity to assist their neighbors is the foundation of the entire trip to Peru. The team, comprised of members from every branch of the U.S. military, is in the process of constructing two schools, three clinics and two wells in the Ayacucho region to benefit local citizens. While the results of these projects may be weeks away, helping to save lives in such immediate circumstances makes the temporary presence of U.S. troops all the more beneficial, explained Sergeant Clark. 

"This is my second time participating in a New Horizons project, and I've seen the positive impact it has had both on the local communities and our own Airmen," said Sergeant Clark. "But I'm really thankful to have been here at the right time and place to help this Peruvian soldier - our friend."

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