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Slashing Victim's Life Saved by USU Alumni, Staff

Image of USU rescuers visit with neck slashing victim in hospital. U.S. Army Lt. Cols. Luis Lugo (left) and Krinon Moccia (back center), along with retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Michael Junio (right), meet with Oscar Sanchez in his hospital room to check on his progress after saving his life following a vicious knife attack in Louisville, Kentucky. Lugo and Junio are staff members at the Uniformed Services University, and Moccia is with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command. (Photo courtesy Oscar Sanchez)

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Luis Lugo and retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant Michael Junio were unwinding with friends after wrapping up the day's sessions at the annual American Association of Laboratory Animal Science meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, Oct. 24 when they heard a cry for help.

Along with former USU colleagues and graduates Lt. Col. Krinon Moccia from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, retired Army Col. Bryan Ketzenberger from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, retired Army Col. Larry Shelton from the University of Maryland, and several others, Lugo and Junio were approached at Fourth Street Live!, a dining and entertainment hub in the heart of downtown Louisville, by a panicked man holding his neck, his hands covered in blood, repeating "Please help me! Help me!"

At first, they thought it was a Halloween prank, but as he drew closer and removed his hands, they saw his injuries.

"When he took his hand off, more blood was there - and that's when we realized this is serious, this is real," Lugo, a veterinarian, USU alumnus and director of the Uniformed Services University's Department of Laboratory Animal Resources, said.

The man, Oscar Sanchez, a former U.S. Navy corpsman and fellow conference attendee from Texas, had been attacked by a local homeless man in a random act of violence, the man's second such attack of the night. The perpetrator snuck up behind Sanchez, slashing his neck from one side to the other with a box cutter, repeating what he had done to another man just a few minutes earlier.

Jason Villano, a clinical veterinarian from Johns Hopkins University was the first to spot Sanchez. Junio, a former paramedic, then jumped over the small gate between himself and the victim. Junio, the USU's Department of Laboratory Animal Resources facility manager and a retired U.S. Army non-commissioned officer, has been on the university staff for years, both on active duty and as a civilian. He previously served as an instructor in USU's basic life support, pediatric life support, and EMT courses. His training and instincts just kicked in. He was followed closely by Lugo, Moccia, and University of Pittsburgh clinical veterinarian Anna Skorupski. Another bystander, Jordan Wingate, a U.S. Navy reservist, called 911.

They convinced Sanchez to sit in a chair. Junio did an initial triage assessment and took vital signs, calling them out to Moccia and Skorupski, who relayed them to Wingate on the line with the 911 dispatcher.

Looking for something to stanch the bleeding, they grabbed clean towels and napkins from one of the nearby sidewalk restaurants, and Junio and Lugo took turns applying pressure to the man's neck wounds to keep him alive until emergency responders arrived.

As they worked, Sanchez repeatedly asked for help, saying he knew he wasn't going to live. They asked him his name, and when Lugo learned it was a Hispanic surname, he thought it might be easier to talk to him in Spanish.

"I'm originally from Puerto Rico; I spoke to him in Spanish," Lugo said. "Trying to calm him down, reassuring him, I looked at him in his eyes and said, 'Look at me, you are going to be okay' because he was telling us he was going to die."

But Sanchez was rapidly losing color, and Lugo said he thought he was on the verge of losing consciousness from hypovolemic shock.

Once first responders arrived and he was loaded onto the gurney, Sanchez's eyes rolled back and he passed out.

"I completely lost faith, I thought we lost him," Lugo said.

Sanchez was transported to the hospital, where he was placed in the intensive care unit. In a statement provided by the Louisville Metro Police Department, first responders and hospital staff credited the group with saving the man's life. "After speaking with medical providers, we believe that, by the quick actions and utilization of their training, these service men and women and citizens saved the victim's life. LMPD is beyond grateful for the service and response of these individuals."

And so is Sanchez. Lugo, Junio and Moccia visited him in the hospital two days later. As soon as they walked into his hospital room, Sanchez said he recognized them and asked if he could hug them all to thank them "from the bottom of my heart."

"I am so happy and thankful they were there to help," he said. "I would not be here today if it weren't for them. It was a miracle"

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