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Through Airmen's Eyes: Hero at 30,000 feet

Master Sgt. Shannon McBee poses for his official photo after being nominated for the 2013 Noncommissioned Officer Association Vanguard Award. McBee saved a man's life while on a flight from Atlanta to San Antonio. (Submitted photo)

Master Sgt. Shannon McBee saved a man's life while on a flight from Atlanta to San Antonio. McBee is a flight medic by trade who is now assigned to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Maxwell -Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

MAXWELL-GUNTER AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (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 sergeant  here became an unlikely hero Sept. 9 during a flight from Atlanta to San Antonio.

Master Sgt. Shannon McBee, an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center aeromedical evacuation electronic health records project manager, boarded the flight to travel for a temporary duty assignment.

"We had just taken off and got to altitude when I heard a call over the intercom for anyone with medical experience," said McBee, a 12-year flight medic. "It didn't seem like anyone was running back there, so I got up to see if I could help."

When McBee reached the rear of the plane, he found attendants huddled around a man who had passed out on the floor. The flight crew explained that the passenger was getting sick and when he stood up to excuse himself, he became dizzy and fell. Although McBee now manages electronic health records and hasn't seen patients in more than six months, he began administering what turned out to a be life-saving medical exam.

"The man's blood pressure was frighteningly low," McBee said. "The scary part was we did not know why his blood pressure was dropping. My initial thought was that he had internal bleeding or something going on with his heart."

McBee grabbed an oxygen bottle from the airplane's first-aid kit and began administering it to the man. When able to speak, the patient explained how he had not felt well all morning and had several dizzy spells throughout the day.

McBee and the pilot discussed the man's situation, and the pilot decided to continue the flight as scheduled. McBee reassured the pilot he could stabilize the man safely until paramedics could take him after landing.

During the remainder of the flight, McBee, and a nurse who was also onboard, continued helping the man. He administered fluids through an IV, elevated his legs and monitored his vital signs.

"The man passed out and woke up multiple times," McBee said. "He was too weak to get up off of the floor, so we sat in the jump seat beside him during the landing."

After landing two hours later, McBee gave the responding paramedics a medical report on the patient, and they transported the man to a medical facility for further examination.

"I am proud of the way McBee immediately responded to the in-flight medical emergency," said Maj. Anthony Crane, the AFLCMC functional management medical systems chief. "His actions are commendable and exemplary. I'm sure the fellow passenger felt fortunate to have him on his flight."

Although McBee has not heard from the patient, he has been called a hero by his co-workers.

McBee's response to being considered a hero: "Pay attention to the training you are getting in the Air Force," he said. "One day it may save a life."




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