- Published: 17 December 2013
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SOUTHWEST ASIA - Eight members from the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron transported a patient from a forward deployed location in Southwest Asia, to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Dec. 6, 2013, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III. The patient, a 54-year-old Army soldier, was suffering from respiratory failure when the aeromedical evacuation crew was notified to transport him to the nearest medical treatment facility. "When we landed near the patient's location, we immediately grabbed all of our medical gear and loaded in the back of a (Army medevac) Black Hawk to get to the pick-up site," said Maj. Matthew Pieper, a 379th EAES critical care air transport team physician deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and a St. Louis, Mo., native. "Riding in a helicopter was the quickest form of transportation to the patient." When the CCATT, also including Travis AFB airmen, Maj. Michele Suggs from Flint, Mich., and Tech. Sgt. Athena Sotak from Brownsville, Texas, arrived on scene with the patient, they quickly got him aboard the helicopter, began performing a medical assessment and started a medical ventilator, Pieper said. "Keeping a patient stable in the back of a helicopter is challenging," Pieper said. "There is less space to work, communication is difficult and we had to stay in our seats. We communicated directions with an Army medevac [technician] who was attached to a harness. He had a little more room to move and keep the patient stable." During the helicopter ride back to the C-17, the medical crew swapped out three oxygen tanks to keep the patient breathing through the ventilator. On the third oxygen tank, the patient's oxygen level began to dip as the helicopter was landing, Pieper said. "We ran the patient about 200 yards from the helicopter to the C-17," Pieper said. "The C-17 has more oxygen capacity than the helicopter so we needed to move him as quickly as possible." Capt. Rebecca Wastart, a 379th EAES flight nurse from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., helped set up the plane to receive the patient said,
"Taking care of people and getting them to a treatment facility and ultimately home, is the best part of our job. I was thinking about the patient today and how he is doing."Although the condition of the patient is unknown to the aeromedical evacuation team involved, they agree it was the best mission so far during their current deployment, Wastart said. The team was proud of what they accomplished, Pieper said. "For 11 hours, everything was calm and perfect, but for one minute things appeared dangerous." Pieper said. "Everyone from our crew, including the Army medevac team and the C-17 front end crew, who even rushed out to help carry the patient, were very responsive and deliberate on what needed to be done to correct the problem. We did an outstanding job and I hope the patient makes a full recovery."
Story by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi