Lin­coln Sailor De­ployed To Aid Puerto Rico

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - NEWS - BY MASS COM­MU­NI­CA­TION SPE­CIAL­IST 2ND CLASS STEPHANE BELCHER, USN.

Lt. Andrew Loomis of Lin­coln re­cently de­ployed aboard the USNS Com­fort to aid in Puerto Rico re­cov­ery ef­forts.

Loomis is among five emer­gency medicine physi­cian res­i­dents from Naval Med­i­cal Cen­ter Portsmouth who em­barked on the Mil­i­tary Sealift Com­mand hospi­tal ship USNS Com­fort in sup­port of re­lief ef­forts for those af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Maria in Puerto Rico, as part of their res­i­dency training.

Loomis works in the ca­su­alty re­ceiv­ing area aboard Com­fort.

Com­fort was to re­ceive four staff emer­gency physi­cians from Navy Medicine East when the ship was ac­ti­vated. Cmdr. John Devlin, the res­i­dency pro­gram di­rec­tor at the med­i­cal cen­ter and med­i­cal di­rec­tor of ca­su­alty re­ceiv­ing aboard Com­fort, pre­sented the idea to give more physi­cian man­power and al­low res­i­dents hands-on learn­ing by ex­e­cut­ing the mis­sion.

The five are se­nior res­i­dents who’ve been through four years of med­i­cal school, an in­tern­ship, are in their third res­i­dency year and are only nine months away from grad­u­at­ing.

“I say it’s win-win,” said Devlin. “The peo­ple of Puerto Rico are get­ting more emer­gency medicine physi­cian man­power than they would have had, had we gone with the orig­i­nal plan. And from the res­i­dent stand­point and the Navy’s stand­point, we are get­ting five ju­nior physi­cians that, for their en­tire ca­reer, will have this ex­pe­ri­ence base to carry for­ward to ap­ply to mis­sions in the fu­ture.”

Physi­cians in res­i­dency typ­i­cally do not de­ploy.

“Here, we are com­ing out and do­ing medicine in a world that’s not at our own in­sti­tu­tion in re­sponse to a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, and that op­por­tu­nity just does not hap­pen,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christo­pher Perry, one of the res­i­dents with the mis­sion.

Res­i­dents from the med­i­cal cen­ter em­barked on Com­fort in the past for Con­tin­u­ing Prom­ise 2015. They came to pro­vide pri­mary care and hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief ashore.

“While [Con­tin­u­ing Prom­ise] is a re­ally great mis­sion to be a part of, as emer­gency medicine res­i­dents-in-training, the ideal set­ting is to work in a place that al­lows us to re­spond to sit­u­a­tions that re­ceive dif­fer­ent emer­gency pa­tients, and to run an ac­tual emer­gency room.” said Lt. Sean Mur­nan, an emer­gency medicine res­i­dent.

Physi­cians in res­i­dency pro­grams, in both the mil­i­tary and civil­ian sec­tor, al­ready have the in­fra­struc­ture of an emer­gency room in place for them in the hospi­tal. They rarely get a chance to over­see what goes into set­ting up an emer­gency room un­til they’re on the op­er­a­tional side, af­ter grad­u­at­ing.

“All of us had an in­di­vid­ual role,” said Mur­nan. “All we had to do was kind of mesh those two to­gether and cre­ate a plan that could re­ceive a blend of the sick­est pa­tients around the is­land, which is what we’re tend­ing to re­ceive. “

With the help of the “Sea Knights” of He­li­copter Sea Com­bat Squadron (HSC) 22, an­other op­por­tu­nity that’s of­fered aboard Com­fort is the chance for the res­i­dents to per­son­ally mede­vac in­ten­sive care pa­tients, with two physi­cians per pa­tient treat­ing them in the air.

“We of­fer a level of crit­i­cal care in the air that the mil­i­tary sys­tem doesn’t nor­mally pro­vide,” said Perry. “Typ­i­cally, for mil­i­tary air am­bu­lances, it’s 20-year-old marines or sol­diers who have trau­matic in­juries. Fly­ing chron­i­cally ill, very sick pa­tients in their 80s and 90s is not some­thing you ever do in a Navy he­li­copter. So it’s a lit­tle unique here.”

“It’s like the per­fect sce­nario for us,” said Mur­nan. “We’re ac­tu­ally able to take on th­ese tasks in­di­vid­u­ally, and come to­gether and build this depart­ment, and then see how well it does. And so far, ev­ery­thing’s been pretty smooth.”

Com­fort is cur­rently un­der­way op­er­at­ing in the vicin­ity of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, to pro­vide med­i­cal ser­vices with ad­di­tional vis­its be­ing planned around the is­land.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Lt. Andrew Loomis, an emer­gency physi­cian res­i­dent as­signed to Naval Med­i­cal Cen­ter Portsmouth em­barked on the Mil­i­tary Sealift Com­mand hospi­tal ship USNS Com­fort (T-AH 20). Com­fort is un­der­way op­er­at­ing in the vicin­ity of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Depart­ment of De­fense is sup­port­ing the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, the lead fed­eral agency, in help­ing those af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Maria to min­i­mize suf­fer­ing and is one com­po­nent of the over­all whole-of-gov­ern­ment re­sponse ef­fort. Loomis is from Lin­coln.

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