MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII -- Sitting on a plane waiting to depart out of LAX, Jephray Prejusa didn’t have much on his mind other than taking a nap. While still waiting to take-off, his nap plans were interrupted by passengers shouting for help and requests for medical attention.
Without hesitation, Prejusa sprang into action and raced up 12 rows to assess the situation. He found an elderly gentlemen in distress and began his primary assessment. Leveraging his training, he searched for a pulse and checked to see if the man was breathing.
With no sign of a pulse or breathing, Prejusa took charge and directed the flight staff to bring the AED, oxygen and to call EMS. As he prepped the AED for the unresponsive man, he instructed the passenger behind him to hold his head and jaw, to prevent the man from choking.
Knowing that every second matters during cardiac arrest, Prejusa didn’t waste any time trying to revive the struggling passenger. Just before he was going to press the button on the AED -- which would have sent a shock through the man’s body jolting his heart back to life -- Prejusa found a weak and rapid pulse. With the oxygen applied, the unresponsive man began breathing, and now with a pulse, there was no need to employ the AED.
Petty Officer Second-Class Jephray Prejusa, an aeromedical safety corpsman with Marine Aircraft Group 24, rendered aid to a 79 year-old man struggling for life on August 4, 2018. A 9-year veteran with experience in combat trauma facilities in Afghanistan, Prejusa didn’t think twice about getting out of his seat to assist a fellow passenger.
“I guess my training just kicked in,” said the Grand Prairie, Texas native.
He automatically kicked into gear as a life-saver and began a basic primary assessment “that every corpsman is trained to do when you arrive on scene.”
Working at an aircraft group, Prejusa is very familiar with the effects of hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the blood. According to Prejusa, because of the pressurized cabin, SpO2 blood saturation normally goes down about four percent. In this case, he suspected it went down much further than the normal decline.
U.S. Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Alfredo Del Haro, logistics chief, Marine Forces Pacific was on the same flight as Prejusa and witnessed the event.
“His actions that morning reflect what we expect from service members and what many outside of the service don't understand. We are willing to take charge while others may remain seated or pull their phones out,” said Del Haro.
After his patient regained consciousness, Prejusa lifted the man out of his seat into a wheelchair and took him into the airport terminal where emergency medical staff were waiting. He conducted his turnover with medical staff, and then went and sat down at another gate with the rest of the deboarded passengers, as if nothing unordinary had happened.
HM2 Prejusa didn’t consider his actions memorable, let alone heroic. To him, he simply used his training and responded to someone in need -- what he has always done as a hospital corpsman. The other passengers on that flight thought differently.
“His actions were a clear indication that he was trained and either was a first responder or service member,” said Del Haro.
When he returned to Hawaii, his fellow service members and superiors were proud, although not surprised, of Prejusa’s actions.
“I was not surprised that he stepped in and stepped up to save someone’s life and intervene when it was needed. That’s how he performs at work and it’s what’s expected of our medics,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Constance Ramsburg, aeromedical safety officer, MAG-24.
On Sept. 25, HM2 Prejusa received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his actions.