02 February 2010

Multiple Air Force crews, Landstuhl staff team up to save Peace Corps member injured in Kazakhstan

What an amzing story. We all hear so many negative things that it's sometimes easy to forget how many wonderful, dedicated people there are in this world. And when multiple teams across Central Asia, Europe, and the US come together save a life, they can make miracles happen.

Transit Center Airmen help save Peace Corps member
by Staff Sgt. Carolyn Viss, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

2/2/2010 - TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan (AFNS) -- Jan. 18 was a snowy day in Central Asia. Jamie Morris, a female Peace Corps volunteer assigned to a village in Kazakhstan, was traveling in a taxi with two other passengers when their vehicle was hit by a truck, killing the two others and leaving her with severe head injuries.

Officials from the Transit Center at Manas, the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, and the Peace Corps worked throughout the day to coordinate on-site medical care and evacuation. There was no way to treat Ms. Morris there, and no way to fly her out, so she was driven five hours by ambulance in whiteout conditions, to the Transit Center, where Airmen were waiting to help.

"Our team led by Col. Jerry Flyer went to work immediately to save her," said Col. Blaine Holt, the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "Although weather kept the teams and aeromedical evacuation team from reaching us until early morning, they kept the badly wounded patient stable."

The entire 376th Expeditionary Medical Group staff worked together to warm the patient, start an IV and administer oxygen, ensuring Ms. Morris was stabilized and ready for air travel, said Colonel Flyer, the 376th EMDG commander and general surgeon.

"She arrived about 11 p.m. and left about 5 a.m.," he said. "Everybody was involved. There wasn't a single person who wasn't in some way helping, whether directly or indirectly, from logistics to the bio equipment repair person, it was a total team effort. She was back in the United States by Thursday morning, which is an incredible tribute to our entire air-evac system."

A C-17 Globemaster III detachment carried her to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing's medical and flying teams were ready and waiting.

"While we were speaking with the doctor, the critical care team (U.S. military) was circling in a plane, trying to land to pick her up," said Lailah Morris, Ms. Morris' sister-in-law, in a blog post Jan. 19. "They are waiting for the fog to clear out a bit before they can land."

With the U.S. military taking over the medical efforts, Ms. Morris was transported to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and eventually to George Washington University Hospital, D.C.

"It's a good feeling to be able to use your knowledge, experience, and training and apply that to actually help somebody who's injured and return them to their family," Colonel Flyer said.

"There were many Airmen along the way, including friends of the family, (colonels) from (U.S. Army Garrison) Garmisch, who were aiding the family," Colonel Holt said. "It's a great account of the whole team, whether interagency, U.S. Air Forces Central, or Air Mobility Command working together. We are all optimistic here that Jamie will win this fight."

"The U.S. Air Force pulled out all the stops for Jamie," said Ms. Morris' mother, Kathy. "We are staggered by their service for one Peace Corps volunteer. We have always held our U.S. military forces in high regard, but that admiration and respect has increased a thousand-fold since Monday. They are an incredible group of men and women.

"The doctors have told us that Jamie is responding to our voices and our touch," said her mother. "We pray and pray and pray over her and tirelessly read scripture to her. Our Jamie is a fighter, and so are we, and so are you. God bless you all. I love you."

I found the family's blog. First of all, they have posted a photo of Jamie, because "Some of you have been asking for a picture of Jamie (before the accident) so that you can keep her in mind while you're praying and thinking about here. Here you go!"

They also have this so say about the kindness they experienced during the first days after Jamie's accident:

What has amazed me so much throughout this whole ordeal is the care and attention that the U.S. Military has shown Jamie. From the Air Force pilots and crews who flew her all over central asia and into Europe, and finally to the States, to the Military nurses and doctors who answered our questions, found us beds and fed us. They carried our bags, made sure we were warm, and did it all with amazing kindness and respect. Have you noticed something? I haven't mentioned returning our rental car - that's because we didn't. Staff at Landstuhl graciously offered to contact the rental agency to pick it up so that we wouldnt have to worry about it. What is more amazing is that Jamie is a civilian, not military, yet they have treated her like she is their most important patient. I can never remember all the names or say enough thank you's to express how they have impacted us. They made the longest day of our lives bearable.

I didn't meet the family during the few hours they were here, but I'll certainly be praying for Jamie and following her progress at the blog.

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