Candace Wimbish was in the right place at the right time. It was an ordinary Friday and Wimbish was driving down U.S. Highway 62 to attend a farewell event for a fellow soldier in Yucca Valley, Calif. Then, in the blink of an eye, a tow truck made a sharp left turn in front of her vehicle.
“My initial reaction was that I almost hit the truck,” said Capt. Candace Wimbish, Chief, Mojave Branch Veterinary Services, U.S. Army Public Health Command, Fort Hood, Texas. “But then I quickly realized the truck had actually plowed into the motorcyclist riding right in front of me.”
Without a second thought, Wimbish jumped out of her car and rushed to the scene of the accident.
“I was in disbelief,” Wimbish said. “I got out of my truck and the man was in a very severe situation. I was able to see the bike, but I had to look around until I found a large black pile of rubble moaning 10-15 feet away from the bike. He was losing a lot of blood very quickly and had very severe wounds to his left leg and arm.”
Although Wimbish’s quick reaction sprouted from the veterinary training she received in the Army, the seed that led her there was planted long ago.
While living in Washington, Wimbish attended a fourth of July fireworks show at Naval Station Everett, WA., with her now husband. As they were waiting for the show to start, the wind picked up and she became cold. They relocated to a spot just on the other side of the building.
“When the fireworks started, the building started barking,” Wimbish said. “I looked over and saw the sign that said ‘caution, military working dogs kennel.’ That night, I started researching about military veterinarians.”
The one team Army mentality transferred over to Wimbish’s quick decision which saved a motorcylist’s life. Since she had three co-workers riding with her, she put them to work when coming to the aid of the injured motorcyclist. Some of the training she conducts with her military working dog handlers includes how to make a tourniquet with what you have on you.
“My first thought was ‘I don’t have my gear,’” Wimbish said. “So, I used my belt to slow the bleeding. I remember telling him, ‘buddy this is going to hurt a lot.’”
Wimbish’s first tourniquet didn’t stop the arterial bleeding, but slowed it down enough for her to make a second tourniquet out of her fellow soldier’s belt. That second tourniquet was enough to stop the bleeding until the paramedics arrived. Emergency Medical Services was able to stabilize the biker and air lift him to Desert Regional Hospital in Palm Springs, Calif.
“I don’t remember thinking through my actions, I just knew that’s what I had to do,” Wimbish said. “We train for muscle memory and a deployed environment. Many folks never deploy, but you still need those skills. Once the gentleman was taken care of, I was still stunned and went to the farewell event to chow down on some pancakes.”
Wimbish has orders for a permanent change of station to a civil affairs unit with U.S. Army Special Operations Command. She will serve as an on-call subject matter expert for questions on animal health and disease prevention. Wimbish will function as a deployable asset to train the operators and partner with host-nation subject matter experts. Wimbish thoroughly enjoys teaching and is looking forward to her new place of duty.
“I’m still having fun and there is a lot of good I can do,” Wimbish said. “I have no plan of getting out soon and I don’t plan on slowing down.”