A trained combat medic’s movie night at home with his wife was dramatically interrupted by gunfire, not on the screen but outside their front door. In the next few minutes that followed, the U.S. Army medic knew exactly what to do to save a stranger’s life.
As a serving soldier based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Spc. Matthew Attaway’s training immediately kicked in, and he ran upstairs for his medical bag. What had been a quiet night in with wife Hailey had suddenly become a dramatic life-or-death situation.
“My husband has always been the kind of person to drop what he’s doing to help those in need,” Hailey told the news organization. “When we heard the gunfire, I remember telling him to stay inside. But I knew he wouldn’t, he isn’t one to leave someone in need helpless.”
While Attaway raced towards the screaming, he checked the surroundings in case the shooter was still in the vicinity. What greeted him at the scene was a man lying on a walkway in a pool of blood. Beside him was a police officer rendering medical assistance.
“I ran up to the officer and let him know who I was,” said Attaway. “I told him I was a medic and wanted to help.”
The relieved officer gratefully accepted the offer of help, and Attaway quickly assessed the victim. The combat medic immediately saw that he was dealing with gunshot wounds to the chest and thigh. Reassuring the victim, Attaway exposed the wound and began searching for where the bullet had exited.
“We’re trained in the Army that if a Soldier, or anyone, sustains a gunshot wound, look for an exit wound,” the experienced medic said. “If you can’t find one, the bullet may still be in. If you can find one, then the bullet has exited, and now two holes need to be sealed.”
With Attaway using his extensive combat medic training and knowledge of gunshot wounds, his patient was in the best possible hands. As Attaway applied the seals to the victim’s chest, the combat medic ensured the victim did not develop a collapsed lung or an abnormal buildup of air between the lung and the chest wall.
“Once I applied the chest seals, I moved to the gunshot wound on his thigh,” Attaway recalled. “I asked the officer if he had identified the point of entry on the thigh. When he said that he hadn’t, I cut a portion of the victim’s pants and exposed where the gunshot was.”
To stop the blood loss, Attaway quickly reapplied a tourniquet, a band that applies pressure on a wound or vein. He then continued to comfort the victim until an ambulance arrived. When the paramedics arrived, Attaway reported to them everything he had carried out. At the time of writing, there had been no further updates on who the shooter was and about the health condition of the victim saved by Attaway.
Attaway, who had served in the Marines for more than five years before enlisting in the Army, remained calm and used sound medical judgment during the entire episode; he proudly attributed his balanced reaction to his upbringing and previous Marine Corps service.
“I can’t pinpoint what happened, or what ultimately led to my ability to remain calm even when my heart is racing, but I have a feeling the Marine Corps and my military training played a part in it,” Attaway said.
“[W]hen you train as we do, it becomes almost second nature. I didn’t expect to have to use that training at home, but I am glad that I knew how to and was able to,” Attaway added.
Thanks to his advanced combat medic training, Attaway can handle an array of life-threatening combat injuries.
It’s a real assurance to know that training like this kicks in no matter where or what you are doing, even if it is quietly sitting on the sofa watching a movie rather than being deployed on the battlefield.
Recalling the dramatic life-saving act of her husband, Hailey said: “I’ve always heard him talk about the training he has done and experiences he’s had. Every time we watch a movie, I hear the ‘oh, that’s wrong’ or ‘you have to apply pressure.’ But seeing it all in front of me, outside of a television screen, and it being my husband trying to save someone’s life, it was so surreal.”
“I was still trying to take in the whole situation while he was covered in blood,” she added. “I was so proud of him and glad he didn’t listen to me to stay in the house.”