Va. Guard officer recognized for lifesaving efforts

Capt. William J. White, a medical officer with the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team, receives a Lifesave Award at the Chesterfield Fire and Emergency Medical Services Annual Awards Ceremony, held Oct. 6, 2015, at the Victory Tabernacle in Midlothian, Va. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Capt. William J. White, a medical officer with the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team, poses with his family after receiving a Lifesave Award at the Chesterfield Fire and Emergency Medical Services Annual Awards Ceremony, held Oct. 6, 2015, at the Victory Tabernacle in Midlothian, Va. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – On the morning of April 24, 2015, Capt. William J. White, Jr., a physician’s assistant with the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team, was just a few miles into his commute when he encountered some traffic. He was on his way to Fort Lee’s Kenner Army Health Clinic where he works a few days a week to maintain the credentials and skills the 34th CST requires.

“I got out of the car to see what was going on and there was a really nasty wreck,” White remembered.

There were two vehicles, both badly damaged, and White quickly assessed a woman in the first vehicle he encountered and then, realizing she was ok with only a few minor scrapes, ran to the next vehicle.

“The guy was in a very small car and the roof had been completely ripped off,” White said. “I could see there was serious neurological stuff going on. He wasn’t responsive, he wasn’t talking and he was hyperventilating.”

White climbed into the vehicle and immediately started assessing the patient.

“He had what we call decerebrate posturing, which is a neurological deficiency,” White explained. White said, from the posturing, he could tell the patient had some sort of brain stem injury, so he worked to stabilize the patient’s spine and continued his assessment until the paramedics arrived. White filled in the paramedics, told them he needed a c-collar, which they provided and White put on the patient, and from there, the paramedics worked to pull the man from the vehicle.

“From that point on, the paramedics did an outstanding job,” White said.

White was honored with a Lifesave Award Oct. 6, 2015, at the Chesterfield Fire and Emergency Medical Services Annual Awards Ceremony for the lifesaving efforts he took in April during his morning commute. He, along with the firefighters and paramedics who responded to the call, the patient and his family, were all called forward to be recognized at the ceremony, held at Victory Tabernacle in Midlothian, Va.

“No doubt that the swift actions by Capt. White, along with the excellent advanced medical care provided by these firefighters and officers have given this young man a second chance at life,” Mr. David F. Tesh, the master of ceremonies for the awards ceremony, announced.

Tesh explained that the Lifesave Award, in part, aims to recognize those citizens who jump in and provide lifesaving aid in times of crisis. “On any given day, the average citizen can be faced with an opportunity for greatness,” he said.

White, however, isn’t exactly an average citizen. For the past seven years, White has served on a Civil Support Team, first in New Hampshire and then here, in Virginia, as a member of the 34th CST.

“CST is a big deal to me,” White explained. “It’s a program I believe in and that I think is important.”

Part of what led White to help at the crash scene in April is the extensive training he’s received during his time as a CST member. The 34th CST consists of 22 highly trained full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel equipped with the latest military and commercial chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response equipment. The team can deploy an advance team within 90 minutes of notification and can scientifically identify nearly all chemical, biological and radiological substances, assess current and projected consequences of those hazardous substances, advise the incident command on response measures and assist with requests for additional support.

All members of the CST undergo extensive training to ensure maximum effectiveness of each individual team member and that includes White, and the other members of the medical team. He explained that he holds certifications on advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, advanced HAZMAT life support, advanced burn life support, radiation emergency medicine and advanced trauma life support.

In addition to those certifications, White underwent intensive medial training in Chicago, working 16-hour days and splitting his time between an ambulance and the trauma bay at one of America’s busiest hospitals. There, White and the team he trained with, responded to real-life calls, treating gunshot wounds and stab wounds and a host of other medical emergencies.

To keep himself sharp, White works not only at the 34th CST, but also at Fort Lee’s Kenner Army Health Clinic and at numerous hospitals in the region. He explained that not only does it help keep his emergency medical skills current, but that it also allows him access to the medical systems of those hospitals and also allows him to build relationships with the doctors and staff members as well. Those relationships and that access can come in handy, according to White, in the event of a real-world disaster when, already having access to the hospital system, he could track and monitor the status of patients and seamlessly integrate with the hospital staff he’s already familiar with.

Maj. Michael Booker, the commander of the 34th CST, was not surprised to learn of White’s actions.

“As a medical professional and as a citizen/Soldier, Capt. White has always focused on the welfare of his Soldiers and anyone under his care,” he said.

White was nonchalant about his lifesaving efforts, saying that the actions of the paramedics are what ultimately saved the life of the man he helped to stabilize.

“What saved his life is what the paramedics did once they got him inside the bus,” he said.

The patient, along with his family, was able to attend the awards ceremony on Oct. 6. After the accident, he was expected to be in the hospital for at least six months, but, according to the citation read at the ceremony, has progressed better than expected and has already completed rehabilitation. At the ceremony, White was able to shake his hand and give the patient’s teary-eyed mother a hug and hear her thanks for his actions on that early morning in April.