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Shaw Airman’s training, quick action saves child’s life and limb

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kelsey Owen
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

On the morning of Oct. 10, 2023, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Prudence Mecha was driving to an appointment in North Charleston when a scene unfolded before her eyes that would change her life forever.

“While I was exiting the highway, I noticed the car in front of me—the door opened and it looked like someone was throwing trash out,” said Mecha, a weapons standardization loading evaluator in the 20th Maintenance Group. “It took a second but then it hit me, ‘Wait, that’s a human.’”

As the car ahead turned onto the exit ramp, a two-year-old child in the back seat fell from the open door onto the highway. Acting quickly, Mecha positioned her car between oncoming traffic and the child and, while exiting her car, called 911.

When the dispatcher asked for her location, Mecha, who was unfamiliar with the area, replied, “I’m on a highway somewhere. Just come help.”

Approaching the scene, she quickly found the situation was more dire than she thought.

“In front of me there was a child sitting in the middle of the road, and her arm was amputated,” said Mecha. “She was in shock and my first reaction was to run to her. I took the sweater that was lying next to her and tried to create a tourniquet for her arm.”

With the blood flow stemmed, Mecha wrapped the child in a blanket and picked her up, singing children’s tunes to keep her calm and awake until more help arrived. That help came in the form of Officer Jason Marzan of the North Charleston Police Department, who helped Mecha apply an actual tourniquet before the arrival of the ambulance.

Airmen in the U.S. Air Force are trained in a first-aid program called Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or TC3. Every member is expected to complete one initial course and then refresh the training upon permanent change of station or in preparation for deployment.

“I wouldn’t know what to do if I hadn’t gone to those classes,” said Mecha. “[This accident] put the seriousness of the training and the safety in perspective.”

Thanks to Mecha’s quick actions and proper rendering of first aid, the child was saved, her arm was reattached, and she is making a recovery.

“I wish I could [show Marzan’s] body cam footage and the footage from his car, because you would see an act of bravery,” said Deputy Chief Scott Perry of the NCPD. “[Mecha] was so special on scene.”

Perry and Marzan visited Shaw Air Force Base on Feb. 20, 2024, to present Mecha with the NCPD’s rarely bestowed Civilian Achievement Award.

“Ms. Mecha should be recognized for her life-saving responsiveness and courage,” states the citation of the award. “Without Ms. Mecha’s decisiveness, the child would have died on the road.”

Mecha is recovering as well. Due to the traumatic nature of the event—and once she gained some distance and her adrenaline began to fade—she realized her mental state was affected.

“I had to drive an hour and a half back [from Charleston], and I knew I was not okay,” said Mecha. “My anxiety was high. I couldn’t drive for a week after; I couldn’t sleep.”

Thankfully, Mecha was able to find the help she needed through Shaw’s Mental Health Clinic.

“As soon as I left, I went straight to Mental Health and I was like, ‘Hey, I need to talk,’” she said. “For days after that, my therapist said, ‘Talk about it. It makes everything feel better.’ And I talked about it, and it did make things a bit better. At first, I felt [disabled] because I couldn't drive myself anywhere. But I got back out there.”

While professional medical care after a traumatic event is paramount, having a steady support system can be just as important for recovery.

“I really appreciate my supervision, who dealt with it very well. They took care of me,” said Mecha. “No matter how it affected me, I would still do it all over again. It was a life-changing experience.”