Anyone who lives or has spent a winter in a cold northern climate has dealt with the perils of snow and ice! In Nome, Alaska, just below the Arctic Circle and on the Bering Sea coastline, the city freezes by mid-October and doesn’t thaw out again until mid-May.
Frequent winter storms interspersed with subzero temperatures and constant wind create a glaze on the ice that builds up on the streets and parking lots throughout the city. This situation leads to slips, falls and sometimes serious injuries.
It was Sunday afternoon when Lead TSA Officer Karen Ecke was walking across the Alaska Airlines parking lot on her lunch break. Carefully shuffling along, with her head down to avoid slipping on the icy surface, she heard a loud “thwomp” sound.
Looking up, she saw a man lying on the icy asphalt.
“I saw him on the ground and went to see if I could help,” said Ecke. “He was lying there holding his arm obviously in great pain. I asked if he needed help into the building or to his truck.”
TSA Officer Akilah Rodriguez also witnessed the fall from inside the terminal and, without hesitation, went outside to assist the fallen man.
“He was lying on the ground holding his arm and moaning,” recalled Rodriguez. “I knew his injury was pretty serious!”
Seeing the man was in severe pain and showing signs of shock and in need of additional assistance, Ecke offered to drive him to the hospital since the Nome volunteer medical response unit would take long to arrive. The man agreed, and they assisted him to his feet and into Ecke’s truck.
Ecke and the man made the short trip to the emergency room. Throughout the drive, Ecke maintained a conversation with him, because he “looked like he could be going into shock, he was so pale and sweating.”
Before his fall, the man was checking in for the last flight out of Nome that afternoon. Two hours later, he arrived back to the airport as the very last passenger to board the flight.
He was in an arm sling and still in considerable pain. He said he had a clean break in his arm at the humerus and was taking the hour-and-a half flight to Anchorage for advanced medical treatment, not available in Nome.
He was very thankful and appreciative for the assistance he received from the two officers. Without their intervention, the man may not have made his flight and gotten the medical attention he needed until the following day.
“Though the situation that Akilah and Karen encountered in the parking lot isn’t common in the severity of the injury, I am not surprised that they did such a great job when they quickly and appropriately responded to this injured person,” said Nome Supervisory TSA Officer Wayne Arrington. “All of the officers here in Nome look out for each other and the people they encounter on a daily basis. They are very conscientious and proactive in assisting passengers, stakeholders or co-workers when they are in need of a helping hand. This is a small, isolated, close knit community in an environment that can be harsh and unforgiving. Helping others is a way of life!”
In the great, white North, there is no escape from an occasional slip and possibly a fall at some point during the long cold winter. But if you do fall, you can hope to be lucky enough to avoid injury or maybe have one of Nome’s local TSA team nearby give you a helping hand!
By Supervisory TSA Officer Wayne Arrington, Nome Airport, Alaska