Medic's Natural Reaction: Family's Hero

Story by 1st Lt. Leanne Masserini
13th SC(E) Public Affairs

It was a natural reaction for her to jump into the water to save the boy, but while swimming to him she was thinking, "This boy is going to die and I don't have the material to save him."

Pfc. Tabatha S. Egli, a medic with the 126th Forward Surgical Team, 1st Medical Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), was boating with acquaintances on Belton Lake over the Fourth of July holiday when she saw 15 year-old Chris Handley stumble and fall off a 30-foot cliff into shallow water in the Morgan's Point area.

When Handley did not resurface and the water began to turn red, Egli and her friends went into action.

Egli and two of her acquaintances pulled the teen out of the water to the rocky bank, stabilizing Handley's head at all times as Egli's friend, Luke Finley, a medic with 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, took the boat to contact the Emergency Medical System.

Handley was unconscious when Egli and her acquaintances got him to shore, Egli said, so she began to do rescue breathing through the teenager's nose. Her other major concern, Egli continued, was Handley's loss of blood. She placed a towel beneath the young boy's head, hoping to slow the flow of blood. It was impossible to tell exactly where the blood was coming from while maintaining stability for Handley's neck, Egli added, so she placed the towel between her knees, lowered Handley's head onto the towel, and stabilized his head between her knees as she squatted over the injured teen and supported herself with her arms on the uneven rocks.

After Egli administered rescue breaths and slowed the bleeding, Handley regained consciousness, Egli said. She reassured him and continued to stabilize his head on the difficult terrain while her acquaintances held the boy's body, one on his torso, the other holding his legs. The three held this position for 30 to 45 minutes until medical support arrived.

Medical support finally arrived despite difficulty in locating the injured teen, Egli said. Egli and her acquaintances placed the boy on the backboard the EMS provided, making it possible for him to be transported to Scott and White Medical Center.

Egli went to the hospital soon after the ambulance took Handley there. Once there, Egli was informed of the young man's injuries - he sustained a major skull fracture and internal bleeding in the brain.

Handley's father, Shawn Handley, later explained the extent of these injuries.

"He underwent a four and a half hour brain surgery," the teen's father said. "The neurosurgeon informed us that if he had not been quickly stabilized immediately after the fall, his brain would have started to swell and he would have died or, at the very least, suffered permanent brain damage."

Egli was able to visit Handley the day after his surgery. The teen was conscious, talking, and remembered who Egli was, she said.

Handley's family is very grateful for Egli's courage, his father said.

"Tabatha is our hero and we would like to give her and the other un-named people in that boat our sincere thanks for saving our son. Without a doubt, her military training as a medic was excellent and reflects greatly on the U.S. Army.

"My son made a bad judgment call and it could have ended his life. Because of the actions of (Egli), he is doing very well and expected to make a full recovery."


news photo
Pfc. Tabatha Egli, a medic with the 126th Forward Surgical Team, 1st Medical Brigade, sits outside the 13th Sustainment Commande (Expeditionary) Headquarters here Friday. Egli helped rescue a 15 year old over the 4th of July weekend. (U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Crystal D. Eldridge)