- Published: 25 May 2011
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5/23/2011 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii- -- In the early hours of the morning on May 22, a C-17 from the 535th Airlift Squadron and medical crews from the 13th Air Force Surgeon General's office and 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, departed in a moment's notice for Pago Pago, American Samoa, to save the life of a critically ill child. The five-year old dependent of a retired Army member suffers from a congenital seizure disorder and had been hospitalized for more than two weeks due to his inability to breathe independently. Following a prolonged seizure, his family rushed him to Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago, where they attempted to intubate him. During their effort to insert a breathing tube, the child vomited and inhaled the matter into his lungs, also known as aspirating. While the medical center was able to medicate and treat him for his seizures, he was now entirely reliant on a ventilator to breathe. LBJ Medical Center recommended that the patient be moved to the nearest military medical facility with the resources to treat him. With his condition listed as critical and the transport urgent, the hospital called upon the 535 AS and a team of medical professionals from the 13 AF and 18 AES to make the transfer to Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii. "I received the call Friday night about 8:00 p.m. to fly to American Samoa and medically evacuate the patient to Tripler," said Maj. Aaron Fields, a critical care air transportation doctor with the 13 AF surgeon generals office. "I initially felt the child was too sick to move, but the transport was critical."
Less than 36 hours after the initial phone call from LBJ Medical Center in Pago Pago, a C-17 touched down in American Samoa and made preparations to transfer the child to Hawaii. "Once we had the child [and guardian] in the back of the plane, we took off in less than 45 minutes," said 1st Lt. Audrey McCabe, C-17 pilot with the 535 AS. "[The crew] all took turns going down to check on him. We were all a little worried, but the flight docs were on top of it and kept updating us on his status." Upon his arrival to Hickam Field, an ambulance transported the patient, along with his legal guardian to Tripler, where he continues to receive treatment. "They will gradually wean him off the ventilator and give him trial periods each day until he is able to breathe on his own," said Major Fields. "His condition is still critical, but listed as stable and improving." According to Major Fields, the family of the child said they were grateful for everything the Air Force has done to ensure the health and wellness of their son.
by Senior Airman Lauren Main
15th Wing Public Affairs