23 August 2010

Medical Airmen inspired by their patients

U.S. Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation Technicians Senior Master Sgt. Tony Staut, (right) and Senior Airman Nicole Caldwell, 332nd Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, prepare supplies for a mission out of Joint Base Balad, Iraq, July 17. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andy Kin.

Medical Crews with the Air Force's 332nd Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight talk about their job:

JOINT BASE BALAD - Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines – too many to remember all of their names. But each service member to pass through the medical evacuation area here plants footprints in the memories of the medical crews, while some leave a little piece of their spirit and legend behind.

Those few are the inspirational, the proud and the patriotic – the ones the U.S. Air Force’s 332nd Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight remember as they transport patients from forward operating bases through Joint Base Balad and, finally, to a medical facility outside of Iraq.

Though she has been a nurse in other capacities – working in neonatal, recovery rooms, intensive care units and emergency rooms – for many decades, Maj. Marty Maddox, 332nd EAEF flight nurse, is relatively new to the aeromedical evacuation mission, having only two years experience as a flight nurse. Before arriving at JBB for her current deployment, Maddox’s first deployment experience as a flight nurse was a short stint transporting patients out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A reservist deployed from the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., Maddox and her medical crew transported some patients through Germany before taking them back to the U.S. for advanced medical care.

While flying from Germany to the U.S. with 57 patients during her first deployment, Maddox and the rest of the crew were able to chat with their patients throughout the long flight.

The medical crew really got to know the patients – where they came from and what they did, she said. One patient in particular, a 23-year-old Soldier, helped the major see that being a flight nurse was her calling.

The patient had already lost one leg, and “they were trying to save his other leg. He was missing some of [his] fingers, and we were trying to save his thumb,” Maddox said. “He was just the bravest young Army Soldier.”

The Soldier’s mother flew to Germany for her son then managed to get on the flight with him back to the U.S.

“We got to know him; we got to know his mom... He cried, I cried, his mom cried,” Maddox recalled. “That really got to me. That’s when I knew I had gotten into the right line of work - that being a flight nurse was truly going to be something I wanted it to be because we’re doing something good. Because we’re getting these Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines back home.

“I will never forget him,” she said of the Soldier she saw that day.

There's much more at the link.

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