'Every second counts': USAFE couple save man in Norway

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- A pile of crispy, golden hash browns and a succulent sausage, egg and cheese sandwich lie on a crinkly wrapper. One by one, the hash browns disappear, bite by bite, the hot savory sandwich follows suit. A slight smirk of satisfaction fades; something is wrong. A slight discomfort slithers up the arm like a snake and strikes into the chest. The person across the booth turns pale with fright. Her body fades into a silhouette and drifts away as the room slowly turns on its side. Screams and chatter dissipate, and suddenly all that's left is darkness.

A man and his relative entered a restaurant in Norway Jan. 17, 2016, however, only one walked out. Luckily for both of them, an Airman and a civilian from the United States Air Forces in Europe were there.

"We were there[in Norway] for two full days and left the third day," said Senior Airman Matthew Mallin, 100th Communication Squadron wing cyber security technician. "It happened in the middle of our trip, Sunday morning, right before we started our day."

That morning, Mallin and his wife debated about where to go and what to eat. It was ultimately a decision that would change lives that day.

"We were just eating breakfast and the gentleman at the table across from us collapsed on his side, just like that," said Mallin.

Without hesitation, Mallin and his wife Sasha Southee-Mallin, 48th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technician, sprang into action.

"Sasha immediately went over to him and started tapping him on his shoulder and checking to see if he was responsive," said Mallin. "Right after a tap or two with no response, we got him to the floor and everything out of the way. I immediately started performing chest compressions; I had tunnel vision."

After checking for a pulse, Southee-Mallin coached the victim's relative on how to give proper life breaths. She also kept people back and swayed them from invading the moment with social media. 

"I helped by pinching his nose and made sure she was using the proper technique," said Southee-Mallin. "It was a team effort, the [restaurant] employee immediately called emergency services and helped me with crowd control."

Mallin, his wife and the victim's relative performed CPR on the victim for approximately four minutes, until emergency medical technicians arrived.

"Right before the EMTs arrived on scene, he started returning to his normal color," Mallin recalled with relief. "Before then, he wasn't breathing, he had no pulse and he was blueish-purple in the face."

Though the EMTs had arrived, Mallin couldn't sit back.

"I continued with the chest compressions while they set up an automated breathing machine," he said. "Then once that was hooked up, I helped them remove his shirt and the EMTs were able to put on the defibrillators. That's when I fully backed away and let them continue what they were doing."

With the emergency responders now in control of the situation, the USAFE couple could finally begin to process the chaos.

"When I was finally able to take a step back and see he [the patient] was fine that's when it hit us. This day could have gone wildly different," Mallin reflected. "That morning we were debating if we were going to grab something quick to eat or if we were going to sit down in a fast food restaurant. We decided at the last minute to get a table."

Later, the EMT, Fin Johannsen, told the couple that he was stable and the patient had normal vitals. With the latest news the two felt relieved.

"It was a scary moment; I was praying the whole time," recounted Souhtee-Mallin. "We were so relieved once we found out he was OK.  Knowing in the end that you saved a life is truly amazing."

Though both can credit their lifesaving skills back to training the U.S. Air Force provided, they both recommend that even without any training a person can still make a difference and save a life.

"It's important to provide aide because you are sustaining their life until someone can come and take over. Every second counts," said Southee-Mallin.

"Even if you aren't certified or you're scared, just do something. It's better than just sitting there not acting, because that could mean someone's life or death," added Mallin.