MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Pennsylvania Air National Guard Master Sgt. Kenneth Rivera-Ithier used his military medical training to help save a life over the holidays.
While visiting his wife’s family in New Jersey for the holidays, Rivera-Ithier was awakened from a Christmas afternoon nap to the sound of panic around him. He could hear his wife’s cousin wheezing and then began to see him convulse. Rivera-Ithier’s years of experience with security forces and emergency response immediately kicked into action.
“The only thing that came into my head was, I if don't act right now, he's gonna die,” said Rivera-Ithier.
Rivera-Ithier said he recognized his wife’s cousin was having a seizure and moved him to the floor to help protect him. When he stopped breathing, Rivera-Ithier administered CPR. The victim gasped for air, and Rivera-Ithier said he placed him in a seated position so he could continue to breathe. He used his command presence to delegate responsibilities to other family members in preparation for the arrival of paramedics.
In a situation like this, when seconds matter, Rivera-Ithier’s ability to respond to the emergency calmly helped save a life.
As a drill-status Guardsman, Rivera-Ithier serves as a Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element (DAGRE) member with the 193rd Special Operations Security Forces Squadron and a Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) instructor for the 193rd Special Operations Wing. His full-time job is serving as a member of the U.S. Capitol Police in Washington.
Rivera-Ithier credits his medical training from the DAGRE and TCCC programs for his ability to recognize the victim’s symptoms and respond appropriately.
The TCCC training focuses on bleeding and wounds from combat. Rivera-Ithier said the TCCC instructor course also included specialized training for seizures. This training was essential in helping him during this emergency, and he now wants to use his experience to help develop more training.
“I told my wife I’m just blessed that I was there,” said Rivera-Ithier. “I was able to identify it and go forward from there. (The paramedics) said if he would have been by himself, he would have passed away.”
“There’s no better testament to the effectiveness of our training and the readiness of our Airmen than the quick response demonstrated by Master Sgt. Rivera-Ithier,” said Lt. Col. Kathleen Fabrizi, 193rd SOSFS commander. “Regardless of whether we are at home or in contested security environments around the world, when seconds count, our training needs to take over and guide the situation to bring it to the best resolution possible.”
Rivera-Ithier says he is a bit of a “prepper,” keeping equipment and resources nearby in case of an emergency. In this scenario, however, he was not able to access any of his tools. His advice in an emergency is to be flexible.
“Know how to utilize your resources even when you don’t have resources,” he said. “You also have to establish a command presence when you’re treating someone. Have other people working for you while you’re treating that person.”
Rivera-Ithier said he finds comfort in talking about what happened, whether it’s with his wife, leadership or friends.
“We’re proud of Master Sgt. Rivera-Ithier and his service to the community, state and nation as a member of the 193rd SOSFS,” said Fabrizi.