Navy Officer Aids Victim of Car Accident

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- A physician assistant at Naval Hospital Beaufort was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal April 25 for providing a life-saving maneuver on the victim of a motor vehicle accident while on her way to work April 16. 

Lt. Michelle Lea, who works at the hospital's battalion aid station (BAS) at the 4th Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, was driving to work shortly after 6:00 a.m. when she came upon the scene of an accident. A pick-up truck had been hit by a garbage truck on the driver's side. First responders had yet to arrive, so she immediately stopped to help. Without regard for her own personal safety, Lea climbed through one of the truck's windows to open the victim's airway and apply cervical spine stabilization.   "My first thought was that there was no way the driver was alive," said Lea. "The garbage truck was completely sitting on top of the driver's seat."   Doing what she was trained to do, Lea immediately performed a jaw thrust, which improved the accident victim's breathing. Soon after, the victim began to regain consciousness, becoming combative and disoriented. Lea stabilized his cervical spine as best she could and remained with the patient until emergency medical personnel arrived on scene.   "Lt. Lea is an exemplary naval officer and an outstanding physician assistant," said Capt. Joan Queen, the commanding officer of Naval Hospital Beaufort, who presented Lea with her award. "Her actions upon arriving at the scene of an accident show that she is not only a dedicated health care provider, but an asset to the command, the Navy, and even the local community."   The victim was transported to Beaufort Memorial Hospital where he was sent to a trauma center via life-flight with severe head injuries, but is now recovering well.   "Lt. Lea is truly a remarkable and motivated physician assistant," said Cmdr. Carol Smith, the director of branch health clinics and Lt. Lea's direct supervisor. "She has always exhibited a great deal of clinical expertise, but more importantly, she has the ability to think on her feet and displays sound judgment, skills which allowed her to jump right in and provide the necessary care to the driver of the vehicle in the accident when he needed it most. We are fortunate to have her providing top-notch care to all the recruits at MCRD's 4th BAS."   Open since 1949, Naval Hospital Beaufort provides general medical, surgical, and emergency services to all active duty personnel, as well as retired military and family members residing in the Beaufort area, a total population of approximately 29,000 beneficiaries. 
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