Leap of faith: Alaska Air Guard Pararescueman helps Army paratrooper in time of need

  • Published
  • By Lori Newman
  • Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

The hand-scribbled note taped to his dog tags simply said, “Request to go to the CFI” with a phone number. The note was written from one amputee to another.

Army Staff Sgt. Kayshawn Porterfield was following in his father’s footsteps. He joined the Army with a plan of becoming a lifelong Soldier and his Army career was progressing. He was moving up in rank quickly, had finished the basic airborne course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

August 16, 2018, started like any other summer day. Porterfield’s unit was scheduled to complete an operational static line parachute jump, which would be his 10th career jump. This time something unexpected happened. As he jumped from the aircraft, the static line that normally deploys the parachute become wrapped around his left arm.

“It yanked my left arm above my head and I was hanging by my arm,” Porterfield said. “My arm went numb and I saw my hand detach from my body. I saw it all right before my eyes. I thought I was going to die.”

After deploying his reserve chute, he made it safely to the ground.

“God was with me and when I hit the ground I was just thankful to be alive,” he said, thinking back on that day. “I purposely landed on my right side so I didn’t hit my left arm. When I hit the ground I applied my own tourniquet from my rucksack. The medics were nowhere around me.”

There was a road guard about 50 meters away.

“I started yelling at him to call the medic,” Porterfield said. “I didn’t want to go into shock.”

Thankfully, just then the medics were coming over the hill in a Humvee. Once they arrived they placed him on a gurney and applied an additional tourniquet on his arm at his shoulder. He believes having both tourniquets saved him from losing much of his forearm. He was airlifted to the nearest hospital.

Porterfield said his adrenaline kept him from passing out.

It was on the rescue helicopter that Porterfield met Air Force Master Sgt. Jeremy Maddamma, 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard.

Maddamma is an above-the-knee amputee who spent three years recovering from his injuries at Brooke Army Medical Center and the Center for the Intrepid at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.

“When we picked him (Porterfield) up I could see that his arm was missing,” Maddamma said.

Once Porterfield was at the hospital, Maddamma stuck around to make sure the emergency room personnel had all the information they needed.

“I formally introduced myself to Kayshawn, tapped on my socket and showed him my X3 calf (prosthetic leg). I wanted to assure him that everything was going to be ok.”

Maddamma also gave Porterfield some advice from one amputee to another.

“I told him he should request to go the CFI and I wrote it down for him along with my phone number,” Maddamma said. “I made a request to the nurses to ensure that the note stayed with his possessions and I watched the nurse attach it to his dog tags.”

Porterfield took his advice and called the CFI.

“The CFI staff started giving me exercises and talking to me about the things I needed to do before I even got to San Antonio,” Porterfield said.

As Porterfield continues with his recovery at the CFI, Maddamma hopes that he will receive the same care and healing he did.

“The personnel at the CFI are amazing,” Maddamma said. “I am forever grateful for the love, support, care and respect that I received from everyone at the CFI, Warrior and Family Support Center, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program and BAMC.  I am also forever grateful for the relationships and friendships created with the staff and fellow patients at the CFI.”

Porterfield Agrees.

“I think it will be a nice journey here,” Porterfield said. “I’m trying to take it day by day. It’s been a process but I’m loving it so far and I can’t wait to see what happens.”