An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Airman saves Kuwaiti man’s life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

In a small restaurant in the heart of Kuwait City, Staff Sgt. Melissa Richardson was enjoying a meal with her small group of Airmen when the screams of a woman interrupted the loud, bustling atmosphere. The back door busted open, and like that, confusion and chaos ensued.

Richardson was trying to gather her thoughts. Years of medical training taught her the six inches between our ears can be the difference between life and death. She stood up and, instead of running away from the screams and sounds of chaos, ventured toward it.

She opened the door, the situation not making itself apparent upon initial inspection. A man was laying on the ground, his skin white as the clouds he eerily stared at with wide-open eyes. She attempted to ask the emotional women if he was choking: after a few attempts, she found he hadn’t been eating anything at all. It was then she took in her environment: the claustrophobic, fast city life surrounded the building, with the few people standing around her watching in awe, some with their phones out recording the events unfolding.

It became apparent to her that if she doesn’t perform CPR, this man is going to die. So she sat next to the stranger and began giving compressions.

Several minutes passed by before the man came to. Richardson could hear the gagging, and rolled him to his side. Everything that was in him came out over the pavement. Although pale and sweaty, the man became cognizant of what was going on. Richardson and her Airmen sprung to help cool the man off.

“I threw him a thumbs up to ask if he was okay, and he gave me slow bow. That was it.”

Richardson and the Airmen then sat in silence. They had saved the man from what was eventually discovered as a cardiac arrest.

“We all just sat there for a minute or two,” Richardson said. “I have never had anything like that happen to me.”

Richardson and her Airmen from the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron’s force protection shop defeated a language barrier and the grueling odds of reviving someone from what emergency medical responder’s nickname “sudden death.” When she returned to work a few days later, she had found her arduous tale told to those above her in her chain of command.

“News had travelled so fast, I had people from all over asking me what had happened,” Richardson said. “I was eventually getting overwhelmed and had to guide them in a different direction so they could get the information they were seeking.”

One of those figures told of her actions was her superintendent, Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Mason.

“They knew Richardson wasn’t looking for the spotlight, but felt it was important to bring up,” Mason explained. “I was in a position to recognize her for her actions and knew it was the right thing to do. To highlight a small piece of her character: when she found out she was being recognized for this, she was adamant that her Airmen also received recognition for their assistance. She didn’t see it as about her, but rather her team.”

Mason quickly routed the information up his leadership and acted on recognizing her as highly as they could. Soon, she found herself sitting in a small office space, alone on a phone call with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

“’Please hold for Gen. [David] Goldfein’ is a phrase I suspect she won’t soon forget,” Mason said.

According to the American Heart Association, fewer than 12% of cardiac arrest victims survive. Richardson, conquering the six inches between her ears, made sure the Kuwaiti citizen didn’t become a statistic, saying she merely did what the Air Force trained her to do: save lives.

“Life is so unpredictable, and in moments like these, you’re quickly reminded not to take life for granted.”

Richardson is deployed from the 11th Medical Squadron at The Pentagon’s Dilorezo TriCare Health Clinic.