PENSACOLA, Florida (NNS) -- A routine trip to the department store on Saturday, Nov. 3, turned into a life changing event for two individuals. Merging traffic revealed the hazard lights of two vehicles: a post office delivery vehicle in the median and a van in the left hand lane.
As Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Rebecca Allen, assigned to Naval Hospital Pensacola (NHP), drove past the van, she glanced over at the driver who appeared to be grasping at her chest. Allen feared something was seriously wrong and this was not a simple case of a disabled vehicle. She turned around at the next opportunity and doubled back to ensure everything was fine.
Allen pulled along the two vehicles where she noticed a post officer delivery worker outside of the van.
“I yelled from across the road to see what was going on,” said Allen, from Wilmington, Illinois. “The post office worker said ‘I think she’s having a heart attack, I think she’s having a heart attack.’ At that moment, I placed my car in park and I just ran. I don’t know actually what I was thinking, it was just adrenaline more than anything.”
When Allen’s fears were realized, her corpsman training took over and she began to help the woman in the van.
“As soon as I got there I went down the list like I was back in corpsman ‘A’ school,” said Allen. “We had to go down a list of questions to figure out the best case scenario to take care of whatever is wrong.”
Allen provided comfort to Annie Patterson, the woman grabbing at her chest, by asking questions such as her name and location of her pain as well as checking her pulse. Allen held her hand and gently rubbed her head to remove the hair from her face in an effort to relax Patterson.
“She [Allen] took control of the situation while being attentive to me,” said Patterson. “She made sure I was calm and that I was focusing on my breathing while directing everyone else at the scene to complete what needed to be done. She stayed by my side until the paramedics arrived.”
Even though she downplayed her role in the emergency situation, Allen along with a nurse that also stopped took charge and directed other bystanders to prepare for the administration of CPR. They moved Patterson from the van and even appointed others to direct traffic. Allen remained with Patterson even after the ambulance arrived and only left her side when the paramedics loaded Patterson into the ambulance.
Most “Good Samaritan” stories would end here; however, Allen made a promise to Patterson. The following afternoon she kept that promise with flowers in hand when she visited Patterson at a local hospital.
“When I knocked and opened the door, Annie just smiled and lit up,” said Allen. “She told me that she remembered my face. It was so cute, I almost cried. It definitely got to me. That moment made me feel so big in such a great way.”
When Patterson was asked about Allen’s effort, she could barely contain her emotions of gratitude for everything Allen had done for her.
“She [Allen] is an angel,” said Patterson. “I truly believe I might not be here today if she hadn’t stopped. You don’t find many people that stop, but she made a U-turn after seeing me beating at my chest. She is amazing and her spirit is beautiful. She didn’t even know me, but she came to the hospital to visit me and even met my husband. She was a stranger that stopped, but she is now a friend.”
When reflected on her actions, Allen said it was a wild experience because this is her first duty station as a corpsman. While at NHP, she has been assigned to Patient Administration where she has received some on-the-job training here and there for patient care, but the training was nothing like this real life scenario.
“At that moment you don’t know the person you’re stopping to help, but when I visited with her and her husband I realized they are both sweet, kind, grateful and beautiful people,” said Allen. “It is one thing to see a situation and not really think of people involved, but it is another thing to see that person as something more.
“I think about it now as how much of me did it take to help Annie,” said Allen. “Honestly, all it took was my time, my caring and my want to help. That is all it takes, and it means everything to me that Annie is okay.”
The two plan on staying in touch and meet for lunch once Patterson is fully recovered and out of the hospital.
For more news from Naval Hospital Pensacola, visit www.navy.mil/local/nh_pensacola/.