SEPTEMBER 28, 2023 – It was an ordinary Friday evening, Sept. 15th, as Cpl. Nicholas Christensen was driving back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California chatting with his buddy Lance Cpl. Ethan Feaster when suddenly a car turned left into traffic causing a horrific collision. Two of the motorcycle riders directly in front of Christensen’s truck swerved to miss the car, a third motorcycle rider attempted to avoid a collision, but crashing was unavoidable.
“I blocked the road with my truck and ran to him [motorcycle rider],” said Christensen, field instructor with Weapons Field and Training Battalion. “I saw the rider was severely injured and ran to get my medical bag.”
Christensen has extensive military medical training such as basic Combat Lifesaver Course, Tactical Combat Casualty Care, and an advanced course called Valkryie which teaches phlebotomy and transfusions. Due to his medical training, he has maintained a medical supply bag in his truck.
“Thank God he had his medical bag,” said Lance Cpl. Ethan Feaster, a Marine rifleman and native of Redmond, Wash. “He [Christensen] really saved the day.”
Christensen, a native of St. Charles, Ill., immediately began triaging the motorcycle rider. One of the other motorcycle riders, Lance Cpl. Ramyar Mohammedali, a land surveyor with 7th Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, ran over to assist. Christensen noticed the motorcycle rider had an Eagle, Globe and Anchor on his jacket and assumed the rider was either an active duty Marine or Marine veteran.
“We realized he was not breathing, so I took off his helmet to help open an airway,” said Christensen. “We learned the motorcycle rider’s name was Mike.”
While holding Mike’s head, Christensen turned him into a recovery position on the asphalt with the cut to his head facing upward to help stop the bleeding. It was at this time that Mike started breathing. Feaster held Mike’s head as Christensen wrapped it with bandages. Christensen then moved to wrap and splint both of Mike’s injured arms.
“It is pretty intense and remarkable what Christensen and Feaster did. Fortunately for that Marine, these two were there. If they wouldn’t have been there, a very different outcome likely would have happened.” 1st Sgt. James Grunbacher, company first sergeant from Weapons Field and Training Battalion
Within about five minutes, local police arrived on the scene.
“We thought the police department officers would take over, but they didn’t have medical supplies,” said Feaster.
The police officers observed the situation and decided to let Christensen continue to take the lead on the care he was providing to Mike. Feaster continued to hold Mike’s head as the Marines did not have a neck brace.
“I talked to Mike; I told him he is a fighter, and you are a Marine,” said Christensen. “If I stopped talking to him, his breathing would slow.”
“It is pretty intense and remarkable what Christensen and Feaster did,” said 1st Sgt. James Grunbacher, company first sergeant from Weapons Field and Training Battalion and a native of Pinole, California. “Fortunately for that Marine, these two were there. If they wouldn’t have been there, a very different outcome likely would have happened.”
About ten minutes after the collision, emergency medical services arrived. Upon seeing the situation, EMS personnel immediately called for a helicopter. Christensen briefed EMS personnel on the medical care he had provided, and EMS immediately lifted Mike onto a stretcher. Due to the high quality of care provided by the Marines, EMS didn’t have any additional medical care to provide.
Christensen’s actions demonstrate how training in the Marine Corps can be applied to everyday scenarios.
“If it wasn’t for that medical kit and Cpl. Christensen’s expertise, we wouldn’t know if he [Mike] was going to survive or not,” said Mohammedali, who has visited Mike every day at the hospital and has kept Christensen updated daily. “It looked ugly.”
Christensen’s Marine Corps service is coming to an end this year; however, he envisions a future marked by continued service. Christensen plans to attend the fire academy early next year and then pursue EMS training in Texas.
“Cpl. Christensen is a true hero. He not only provided lifesaving aid but took charge of the situation and did so regardless of his own safety,” said Mohammedali. “Cpl. Christensen actions saved the life of a Marine that evening.”
By Staff Sgt. Melissa L. Karnath
Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego