When a Kaneohe-based Navy corpsman sat on a plane waiting to depart Los Angeles last month, he didn’t have much on his mind other than taking a nap.
What happened soon after made him a hero.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jephray Prejusa is an aeromedical safety corpsman with Marine Aircraft Group 24, and has combat experience in trauma facilities in Afghanistan.
Simply put, he’s trained to save lives.
On Aug. 4, he got delayed at LAX while heading to training in Washington, D.C.
As the plane sat on the tarmac, he heard somebody yell for help about 12 rows up. He went to check it out, and found a 79-year-old man slumped over in his seat.
“I checked his pulse, checked his radial pulses first on his wrist. I didn’t feel anything at the time, and then I went to his carotid pulse. Didn’t feel that at all, so from that point, I instructed the flight attendant that was saying hey, what do you need, and I said, ‘Hey, I need the AED and oxygen, if you have it,'” Prejusa said.
At first, he thought the man was having a stroke or in cardiac arrest.
“From there, (I) put on the oxygen on him, put on the AED pads onto the elderly gentleman, and while it was reading, the AED pads were reading, I rechecked his pulse just to make sure I don’t give an unnecessary shock to him,” he said. “Training kicked in. I was about to press the button, reassessed his pulse. He had a very weak, but fast pulse, carotid pulse. So I did not deploy the AED, put the oxygen onto him and about eight minutes later, he started to come to.”
Prejusa believes the man was suffering from hypoxia, or lack of oxygen in his blood, which happens to all of us when we fly, but in this case, it was much worse.
He stayed with the man after paramedics arrived to make sure he was okay. He says his name is Arthur, and he was traveling to D.C. for a business meeting.
The flight attendants and nearby travelers thanked him, and last week, Prejusa received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his actions.
But the nine-year veteran says he doesn’t consider his actions memorable, let alone heroic.
“In my eyes, if anybody’s in distress, we’re meant to be helpful people, and I’m trained. We’re corpsmen. We’re built and trained to save lives,” Prejusa said. “Just help out when you can. If you see somebody in distress, don’t be that bystander that just keeps walking. Lend out a helping hand and do what you can when you can.”