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News | March 7, 2017

JTF-Bravo provides life-saving medical evacuation

By Capt. Denise Hauser Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Joint Task Force - Bravo’s Medical Element and the 1st Battalion, 228 Aviation Regiment provided vital medical support that helped save the life of a U.S. military retiree here Feb. 18.

According to Dr. Miguel Coello, a MEDEL Foreign Liaison Officer, the patient had a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurism. This condition is one of the most fatal surgical emergencies, with an overall mortality rate of 90 percent.

Despite these odds, the patient survived.

“He’s alive now because of the quick response from JTF-Bravo’s leadership and the fast movement of this patient to Tegucigalpa for further treatment,” said Coello.

Dr. Coello and a team of medical personnel were traveling when he got a call from a cardio vascular surgeon in Tegucigalpa that there was a critically ill U.S. citizen in Siguatepeque that needed to be transported right away for advanced emergency care.  Coello made some quick phone calls to JTF-Bravo leadership and got the approval to start the medical evacuation.

The 1-228 AVN’s MEDEVAC Company were called upon to transport the patient in a HH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.

“We’re here full time, we keep an alert shift that’s always on call,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Baker, the pilot in command of the MEDEVAC operation.

“We are always postured to have a crew of two pilots, a crew chief and a medic on call at all times,” said Baker. “From the time we got the call, we were off the ground in half an hour. The patient had issues that required urgent surgery.”

The aviators flew to the specified landing zone in Siguatepeque to pick up the patient who was already packaged to go. Within minutes, the patient and his nurse were loaded into the Blackhawk and were swiftly on their way to Tegucigalpa.

Baker said thirty minutes is the mandated time from when a call comes in until they launch, but it all depends on the severity of the injury which can allow more time for flight planning, and this was pretty severe.

Baker said while the Medevac unit itself seems to get all the glory for saving lives, it takes a concerted effort across the Joint Task Force to get patients to safety.

“Because we frequently train for this, we were prepared,” he said. “From leadership to the operations crew, to the people on call, to the medical team, it was everyone working together to make this happen.”

Coello said the patient is back in the hospital in Siguatepeque and is making a good recovery.

It was through the partnerships and connections formed with the Ministry of Health, local Honduran hospitals, and JTF-Bravo by doing medical readiness exercises within the region that the cardio vascular surgeon knew to reach out to JTF-Bravo for help.