Airman saves Korean man's life with CPR
7/2/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- When Airman 1st Class Patrick Shemwell walked outside after eating dinner near Kunsan Air Base June 24, he saw a young Korean man lying on the ground and gasping for air.
He shoved his way through the screaming bystanders and checked the man's pulse, but he had stopped breathing.
"When I initially saw him, I didn't know if he had had one too many drinks that night or if he was just being dramatic," said Shemwell, an Owensboro, Ky., native assigned to the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "Nobody else was taking action so I took charge."
He immediately began performing CPR. When the Korean started breathing again after four or five compressions, Shemwell ran inside a store to make sure the police had been called.
While he was inside, the situation turned sour again, so another Airman took action.
"As I was watching, he stopped breathing so I dropped to his left side and began CPR," said Tech. Sgt. Percival Cabase, who also works at the 8th AMXS.
Unfortunately, it wasn't working. Shemwell ran back out and took over where he left off, resuscitating the victim for a second time. A minute later, a Korean ambulance came and transported the man to a hospital.
"It all happened so quickly, it was a blur," said Shemwell. "It was an adrenaline rush. Your whole focus and the only thing you think about is, 'Now I have to save somebody's life.'
"I never imagined I would have to use CPR or be in that situation," he added.
To him, the scene unfolded in what seemed like mere moments and was over just as quickly.
Although he kept a humble attitude and only told his immediate supervisor about the incident the next day at work, word soon got around.
"It's beyond impressive to see how Shemwell kept calm under pressure while he put his skills to use," said Master Sgt. Frederic Spears, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit flight chief. "To see someone step outside their realm of expertise is a testament to why we're here. I'm very proud of how he represented himself and the Air Force."
Being trained by the Air Force is the reason Shemwell was able to react so well in the high-speed situation. He became CPR certified after joining the military and has received annual training since then.
"If the Air Force hadn't taught me what to do, then the circumstances could have been different," he said. "He might not be safe and with his family now. Anything that is thrown my way is easy to overcome because of how I've been trained."
Although his quick actions led to him saving a man's life -- twice -- Shemwell is quick to dismiss any notions of being called a "hero."
"I don't think what I did was extraordinary," he said. "There are a lot of people out there who would do the same thing as me.
"I am proud to serve in the military because we truly dedicate our lives to preserve the unity we share with our host nations."