August 2, 2012
by Steve Pivnick
81st Medical Group Public Affairs
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) — (This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)
A recent family outing turned into a lifesaving event for a Keesler Air Force Base medical technician.
Airman 1st Class Shaina Buller, a medical technician with the 81st Medical Group’s surgical inpatient unit, was attending an annual family reunion in Helen, Ga. that included tubing down a local river. This year it included her, her brother, older sister, sister-in-law, two young cousins and 3-year-old niece.
“We were tubing down the river,” she recalled, “when we saw a guy in the water splashing. We had seen him a few seconds earlier and he seemed fine. It appeared he had stepped into a hole and couldn’t swim. You could see from his flailing arms and gestures he was in trouble. I saw him go under water twice and knew if he went down a third time he wouldn’t come up.”
At that point Buller and her sister dove in and attempted to bring him to the surface.
“He was panicking and fighting us. You could tell he was in distress from the fear in his eyes. The water was pretty deep in that area — I couldn’t touch the bottom as we tried to get him. Because he was in a panic, it was difficult to retrieve him. My sister hurt her knee but we were finally able to get him to shore. We discovered he didn’t speak English so we didn’t understand one another. But I was able to do an assessment of his condition.
We stayed with him briefly to ensure he was OK then walked him up a hill to the parking lot.
We tried to ask if he wanted to go to the hospital but due to the language barrier we were unable to communicate.
“It turned out there had been a woman near him wearing a life jacket. She had a child with her and said she couldn’t swim.”
Buller admitted she had never been involved in a lifesaving situation before.
“I felt really ill after the adrenaline subsided but I was excited to have been able to use the skills I learned while in tech school.”
Buller has been in the Air Force since May 2009, initially in the Air Force Reserve at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., which happens to be near her hometown of Warner Robins. She came on active duty in April of this year and arrived at Keesler AFB in May.
(Editor’s note: We corrected a misspelling of Warner Robins. The author originally spelled the name with two R’s.)