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Optometry NCO saves life in Houston

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Niter III, 47th Medical Operations Squadron NCO in charge of optometry, poses for a photo in the optometry clinic at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 19, 2013. During a recent visit to Houston, Niter used his medical knowledge and intuition when he saw a downed pedestrian unconscious and not breathing. His quick lifesaving actions revived and kept the pedestrian alive until rescue personnel arrived on-scene. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Niter III, 47th Medical Operations Squadron NCO in charge of optometry, poses for a photo in the optometry clinic at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 19, 2013. During a recent visit to Houston, Niter used his medical knowledge and intuition when he saw a downed pedestrian unconscious and not breathing. His quick lifesaving actions revived and kept the pedestrian alive until rescue personnel arrived on-scene. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Scott Saldukas)

(In green) Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Niter III, 47th Medical Operations Squadron NCO in charge of optometry, looks on as members from the Houston Fire Department prepare to load a patient into their ambulance Sept. 12, 2013, in Houston. Niter, was on leave, when he noticed a downed-man with a crowd of people around him while driving that afternoon. Niter and his girlfriend immediately responded to the man before beginning life saving techniques for nearly 30 minutes until emergency management services arrived. The unknown man was stabilized and is doing well, according to the HFD, all due to Niters selfless actions. (Courtesy photo)

(In green) Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Niter III, 47th Medical Operations Squadron NCO in charge of optometry, looks on as members from the Houston Fire Department prepare to load a patient into their ambulance Sept. 12, 2013, in Houston. Niter, was on leave, when he noticed a downed-man with a crowd of people around him while driving that afternoon. Niter and his girlfriend immediately responded to the man before beginning life saving techniques for nearly 30 minutes until emergency management services arrived. The unknown man was stabilized and is doing well, according to the HFD, all due to Niters selfless actions. (Courtesy photo)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Staff Sgt. Robert Niter III, 47th Medical Operations Squadron NCO in charge of optometry here, lived up to the military's motto of being on duty 24/7 while on vacation recently.

Nearing the end of his leave in Houston on Sept. 12, Niter and his girlfriend, Rita, had planned an afternoon trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science before they realized there would be a slight detour on the way.

On their way to the museum, Niter noticed a man lying on the ground with a crowd of people around him.

"It took a second for things to sink in before I told Rita to turn the car around," Niter said, who hails from Memphis, Tenn. "When we turned around, I had Rita stop the car in the middle of the road where the victim lay on the other side of the road. I sprinted across the street and asked folks what had happened. They stated how the man was jogging, then he sat down with his water bottle and proceeded to pass-out."

After gaining an understanding of what took place, Niter instructed someone to call 9-1-1 immediately before he began to perform CPR.

"I checked for a response and I asked the young man if he was okay, but got no response," the Laughlin NCO said. "I then opened his closed eyelids and saw his eyes were rolled in the back of his head. I checked inside his mouth to ensure nothing was lodged in it and checked if he had a pulse. The gentleman did not have a pulse, he was not breathing, and he was a bluish purple color in the face with cold, clammy and wet skin. I then began administering CPR."

While performing CPR, his girlfriend elevated the feet and loosened the footwear of the downed pedestrian.

Niter explained, as people were beginning to pray for the unconscious man, an older gentleman began to assist him in the CPR process due to fatigue beginning to set in for the airman.

"After about 25 minutes of continuous CPR, the man began gasping for air and elevating his right arm," Niter said. "He opened his eyelids but his eyes were rolling all around. The man began coming back to life after appearing dead for a few minutes. His color was still abnormal, but had improved since arriving."

Approximately 30 minutes after noticing a crowd of people around a man lying down, the emergency medical technicians arrived on scene and took control of the situation.

"We placed the man on a stretcher and into the ambulance where the EMTs continued to perform CPR, hook him up with an IV and use an automated external defibrillator," Niter said. "The patient slowly began to stabilize under the care of the EMTs."

The patient didn't have any identification as he only carried a water bottle and cell phone, Niter said. The EMTs used the patients phone to call the most recent contacts to notify them of what had occurred, he added.

"After speaking with the lead EMT firefighter, he said that without us performing CPR, the guy would have died," Niter said. "Many of the people standing by thanked us for bringing him back. I really just saw myself as a vessel being called on at the right time. It is something any airman or military member would have done in that case."

Even though Niter was lauded by on-lookers and rescue personnel, he said he took something away far greater than recognition.

"Sure it's nice to be recognized," he said, "but it's not about an award or a medal. The feeling of knowing that you saved someone's life is truly an amazing feeling. Knowing that our actions that day prevented someone from dying and gave them another chance."

Niter said since the incident, he was told that the patient had recovered and was stable with no issues.
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