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NH Jax Guantanamo 'Rapid Response Team' Among First to Care for Haiti Quake Victims

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100123-11
Release Date: 1/23/2010 3:33:00 PM

By Loren Barnes, Naval Hospital Jacksonville Public Affairs

NAVAL HOSPITAL JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Hospital Jacksonville, (NH Jax), Fla., Surgeon Capt. James "Scott" Flint described the life-saving mission he and a NH Jax "Rapid Response Team" performed at Naval Hospital, (NH) Guantanamo Bay, (GTMO), Cuba.

The NH Jax team was there to reinforce surgical and intensive care capabilities as GTMO took Haiti earthquake victims. The team was led by Flint, a Navy general/trauma surgeon, includes Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Cmdr. Carol Daniel; Critical Care Nurses Lt. j.g. Scott McClure and Lt. j.g. Candice Kumpunen; Surgical Technician Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Terranthium Galloway; and Respiratory Therapists Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Carrie Hansen and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Delana Refour.

The Haiti disaster relief effort which has been designated Operation Unified Response plunged this team of skilled and dedicated NH Jax providers into the thick of things from the beginning of the Herculean effort Navy Medicine mounted to provide medical assistance to victims of this disaster.

Flint recounted the immediacy of his orders.

"Our seven-member rapid response team was assembled on the morning of Jan. 13, just one day after the quake," Flint said. "The situation in Haiti was just making the world news and our names were called. I had just finished my average morning of five colonoscopic procedures, and was walking down the hallway, when I was stopped by my friend and Director of Surgical Services Capt. Alan Finley. He told me to grab a toothbrush and be ready to get on a plane to GTMO. I thought he was kidding, but he wasn't. Within the next hour, I was in the air on a C-12 and on my way to Cuba."

The other six members of the team were hot on his trail and were on the next flight down four hours later. Their mission - to augment existing personnel at NH GTMO in order to receive, triage, and care for, victims of the massive earthquake in Haiti.

"Upon arrival, we were immediately immersed in the trauma triage and treatment of multiple critically injured patients," Flint said. "Among the injuries were: spine injuries, pelvic fractures, traumatic amputations, and fractured spleens, multiple various fractures of long bones, pulmonary contusions, and soft-tissue injuries. Compartment syndrome, a complication of crush injuries, was common in several patients and necessitated fasciotomies," the surgeon recalled. Fasciotomy is a surgical procedure that cuts away the fascia, to relieve tension or pressure. Fascia is thin connective tissue covering, or separating, the muscles and internal organs of the body.

Flint described the pace of operations. "Initially, the medevac helicopters did not fly at night, and the hospital was able to catch up and be ready for the next day. This continued for the first few days, and then the patient numbers medically evacuated to GTMO slowed as additional responders became functional on the mainland and aboard the USS Carl Vinson," he said.

"The NH Jax team members integrated seamlessly with their counterparts at the hospital and the result was impressive," Flint said. "No deaths occurred in the (Guantanamo) hospital, and all patients transferred to higher levels of care left the hospital in stable, but sometimes, critical condition. The success of the ongoing mission was truly possible because of all of the various levels of training that the staff has undertaken in their Navy careers, and it showed."

Flint said, "The Commanding Officer of Naval Hospital Guantanamo, Capt. Monte Bible, was very pleased with the way things have progressed and has given great support to the command, as well as the JAX seven. We continue to maintain vigilance for incoming patients as they are authorized to come to Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay."

Eleven NH Jax personnel deployed to the USNS Comfort on Jan.15. The NH Jax personnel joined medical staff and support personnel from various naval medical facilities ramping up the hospital ship's capabilities for this massive mission.

The Comfort departed Baltimore on Jan. 16 and arrived off Haiti on Jan. 20, bringing a 1,000-bed capability to the scene. They immediately began receiving patients. The NH Jax team is led by Ophthalmologist Capt. Terence McGee and includes one Independent Duty Corpsman, Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Michael Holmes, along with support personnel ranging from hospital corpsmen to supply technicians and culinary specialists.

Twenty additional personnel from NH Jax were bound for the ship on Jan. 21. Led by Anesthesiologist Capt. Gabriel Rodriguez, that group included a radiologist, several nurses, two orthopedic technicians, three operating room technicians, one psychiatric technician, one physical therapy technician, three laboratory technicians and a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CNRA). Two additional people were sent to Guantanamo – an X-ray technician and a pharmacist. NH Jax is standing by to meet other tasks as needed.

NH Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Bruce Gillingham said he is proud of the way the NH Jax staff has stepped up to the plate and noted that the hospital is well-experienced in the challenges of wartime deployments, humanitarian missions and continued stellar care of our local beneficiaries. While the hospital's operational tempo from this and ongoing deployments has brought the percentage of staff deployed in excess of 20 percent, the hospital is used to backfilling as necessary to continue care effectively.

"We are responding to the request for personnel and equipment as directed by our regional commander who in turn is responding to the needs as identified and tasked by the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) which is coordinating Navy medicine's response as identified by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). We will meet whatever mission is presented to us while continuing to provide high quality care to our active duty personnel, their families and retired military personnel in concert with our civilian network partners who are an essential resource, now more than ever," Gillingham said.

In a telephone conference with the various Navy Medicine East commands involved in this mission, Rear Adm. William R. Kiser, Commander, Navy Medicine East, said, "The evolution in Haiti certainly transcends the 22,000-plus people deployed… Those hands belong to everyone in Navy Medicine East. There is not a single soul in this region who is not contributing to this effort. They are all absolutely vital to this mission. I want to personally express to each one that I am eternally grateful."

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