When Nathan Fife left his job at a Destin restaurant one night earlier this month, he didn’t know he’d be saving someone’s life.
But as the 22-year-old took his normal route home to Fort Walton Beach, he noticed a white SUV wrapped around a tree, almost splitting the vehicle in half.
There were no ambulances or emergency vehicles at the scene, so Fife figured the tow truck hadn’t arrived yet to remove the car. Then he saw the figures of two people in the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat.
“The crash must have just happened,” Fife said. “I pulled my truck over and saw a black male at the driver’s side door holding onto a black female. There was blood everywhere.”
Blood covered the car, the woman’s clothes, the ground, and the man’s chest.
“He was shirtless and he was glistening in blood, just covered,” Fife said.
Fife knew the woman was in serious condition. He said he was in shock for a moment, and then grabbed a military-grade medical kit out of his truck. He’s not military, but said he bought it because he thought it might come in handy. Ironically, this was the second time he was the first person to respond to a car accident.
The woman in the driver’s seat was fading, nodding her head forward as the man yelled for her to stay awake, while trying to apply pressure to a wound on her head.
Fife pulled on latex gloves and handed the man a combat dressing to apply to the woman’s head.
“As soon as he let his hands off her head to put the dressing on it was like Niagara Falls,” Fife said of the blood. “It was like a horror movie.”
Fife cut her out of her seatbelt and then saw paramedics and fire trucks coming toward them.
As the woman was removed from the car and loaded onto an ambulance, Fife spoke to Officer Mark Wohlin of the Fort Walton Beach Police Department about his efforts to treat the woman.
Wohlin asked Fife if he could come over to his car.
“I thought I was in trouble like maybe I did something wrong,” said Fife.
Instead, Wohlin handed him a blue bracelet with “Actively Caring For People” stamped on one side and serial number “502466” etched into the other. Wohlin explained that the bracelets are given out to people who go above and beyond for someone else by showing kindness, compassion and caring.
The Actively Caring For People, or “AC4P” movement, was started by a group of Virginia Tech students and their professor, Dr. E Scott Geller, after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.
The idea is to recognize others for their acts of kindness by giving them a bracelet and instructions to pay it forward. With each bracelet comes a story of compassion that is submitted to Virginia Tech along with the bracelet’s serial number.
Wohlin told Fife that his first-responder story would be submitted to the AC4P website.
“He was partially in traffic, putting himself at risk, and he stepped in to help this woman using his medical kit that he had just purchased,” Wohlin said. “He really showed initiative and went out of his way to do a good thing, so that’s why I gave him the bracelet.”