WEST ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A teenager credits skills he picked up as a junior volunteer in the intensive care unit at Good Samaritan Hospital in helping him think clearly during a brutal grizzly bear attack in Alaska over the weekend.
Dr. Jerome Weiner, Sr. Vice President of Medical Affairs, presented Sam Melman, of Huntington, with the Community Service Award at the hospital in West Islip on Thursday.
“We don’t have bears in the ICU but we certainly have emergencies,” Weiner said.
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Melman, who amazingly escaped without injury, was asked Thursday if he considered himself a hero. He said “I was doing what I was taught, I was doing what I had to.”
Melman was one of seven wilderness survival students who survived the attack in the Talkeetna Mountains on Saturday night.
“When the bear was coming at me I wasn’t really thinking about hospitals,” Melman said. ”I was thinking about getting out of its way.”
The group was preparing to cross a river when they stumbled upon the grizzly bear walking with its cub. Melman said the bear first attacked Josh Berg, of New City, clawing and biting the 17-year-old on the head before setting its sights on Colorado’s Sam Gottsegan.
Melman escaped the bear’s wrath and when the coast was clear, he and Sam Boas of Westport, Conn. put their medical training to work, stabilizing Berg and Gottsegan, the two most critically hurt.
” When the police called my family that night, they did say we were calm and collected, and they were amazed at how put together we were and they said that our teamwork…saved the lives of Josh and Sam,” Melman said.
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“I guess what I learned kinda kicked in,” Melman said. ”I just got my game face on and decided that it’s time to get to work and it’s time to go down there and help them. I bet, without that training, that wouldn’t have happened. I would have been freaking out on the top of the hill.”
Melman and Boas performed first aid for six hours to help their badly mauled companions until rescuers arrived.
The seven teens were rescued and taken to the hospital. Gottsegan is being treated for chest wounds while Berg suffered massive facial and head wounds.
When asked if medical school was in his future, he said, “I guess it’s definitely an option at this point.”
Melman returned to Huntington Wednesday and said he is happy to be home with his parents and is now more appreciative of life.