Back to Top Skip to main content

U.S. doctors save Italian patient hours from death

U.S. Air Force Capt. Melanie Gates, left, Capt. Nick McKenzie, and Capt. Richard Thorsted, all who are Special Operations Command Forward Northwest Africa ground surgical team members, gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey. The three doctors recently finished medical school and are serving their first deployment. They are deployed from Travis Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo) U.S. Air Force Capt. Melanie Gates, left, Capt. Nick McKenzie, and Capt. Richard Thorsted, all who are Special Operations Command Forward Northwest Africa ground surgical team members, gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey. The three doctors recently finished medical school and are serving their first deployment. They are deployed from Travis Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Global Health Engagement | Partners

NIAMEY, Niger — What began as a normal day eventually became an 18-hour sequence of events never to be forgotten.

Doctors and staff of Special Operations Command Forward (SOCFWD) – North and West Africa’s Ground Surgical Team (GST), a tenant unit assigned to Nigerien Air Base 101, Niger, were notified that an Italian woman recently suffered life-threatening injuries that required their attention.

The Italian woman was originally receiving care at a local hospital in Niamey when the GST was contacted by Italian military officials because the local hospital didn’t have the resources needed to save the patient’s life.

When U.S. Air Force doctors from SOCFWD – North and West Africa’s GST initially reviewed the computed tomography, or CT scans, they immediately knew there was more serious damage than what was reported as only a liver bleed by the local hospital.

“Upon reviewing the CT scans, there was also evidence of free air in the abdomen, concerning for a small bowel injury,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Melanie Gates, GST emergency medical physician. “When the patient arrived, her skin was white and she was in serious pain with minimal responsiveness. Her vitals were much worse than previously reported.”

The patient had a fever, a very high heart rate and low oxygen levels.

“First thoughts upon seeing patient … she wasn’t doing well,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Richard Thorsted, GST anesthesiologist. “She arrived to us in critical condition with a high fever.”

Thorsted and other GST members agreed that emergency surgery would be needed. Immediately, the team directed the 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron medical team to set up a walking blood bank. Additionally, they coordinated with various units and agencies from the 768th EABS, and Italian, French and German military forces to set up airlift and transportation to a larger medical facility in Senegal.

The patient is currently in good condition and recovering from her injuries in Naples, Italy, according to the GST staff.

“I’m especially thankful for the total team effort to do what is right, and not to let bureaucratic issues delay critical care,” said Air Force Capt. Nick McKenzie, GST general surgeon. “This was somebody’s mother, or wife, or daughter.”

McKenzie, Thorsted, and Gates, all of whom recently graduated from medical school and finished their residency programs, credit their success to a rigorous military training program they attended prior to deploying to Africa.

They all had run through clinical scenarios and situations to be able to work in austere conditions.

“Our training kicked in. We all knew our roles and worked well together,” Gates said. “I believe our training was crucial for our development as a team and ability to handle situations like this.”

Gates also said trust was crucial in the team’s ability to work in a stressful situation.

“I know that our ICU nurse, Capt. Jessica Bertke can trouble shoot any of our equipment and is the glue that holds our team together,” Gates explained. “I know that our anesthesiologist, Capt. Richard Thorsted, is meticulous at his job and is already steps ahead when problems arise. I know that our surgeon, Capt Nicholas McKenzie, has operated in much more austere conditions and would trust him to operate on my own family.”

Gates also mentioned that their scrub tech, Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Rios, has worked closely with McKenzie and can predict what he will need.

“I know that Master Sergeant Lou Campbell is always behind the scenes advocating not only for the patient and dealing with medivac logistics, but advocating for our team,” Gates said.

McKenzie said the support from the SOCFWD-NWA and air operating base staff in supporting his team’s decisions was one of the most crucial elements to his team’s success. He also thanked the Italian military doctor Valantina Di Nitto, who translated information regarding the patient into French, German, English, and Italian for the multinational military units at Air Base 101.

“My takeaway is personally knowing that we did something to help another human being,” Thorsted said. “There is an inner peace knowing you’ve done your best and you made an impact in someone’s life.”

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.     

You also may be interested in...

DTRA contributes to historic Ebola vaccine effort

Article
1/17/2020
Air Force Staff Sgt. Lee Nembhard, an aeromedical evacuation technician assigned to the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, straps a simulated Ebola patient to a litter during a Transport Isolation System training exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Megan Munoz)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves new Ebola vaccine

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance | Global Health Engagement

HPV vaccine now recommended for those up to age 45

Article
1/14/2020
https://www.nfid.org/infectious-diseases/hpv/ Recent CDC and FDA guidance recommends that men and women up to 45 years of age get vaccinated to protect against the Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can cause certain cancers and genital warts. More than 14 million new HPV infections occur in the U.S. each year, and about 80 percent of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some point in their lives. (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases image)

HPV shot protects against a host of diseases in men, women

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Men's Health | Women's Health | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Vaccine Recommendations

U.S. Transportation Command: DoD’s manager for global patient movement

Article
1/9/2020
An ambulance bus backs up to the Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III as Airmen prepare to unload patients at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The bus transports the ill and/or injured to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. JBA and Travis Air Force Base, California, serve as the primary military entry points or hubs for patient distribution within the continental United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karina Luis)

On a weekly basis, USTRANSCOM moves up to 40 patients from overseas to CONUS

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Joint Chiefs say mind, body, spirit all part of Total Force Fitness

Article
1/7/2020
Image of a Marine climbing a rope ladder

2020 focus on factors making service members, families “resilient”

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Operation Live Well

Navy Medicine demonstrates Virtual Health options to Africa

Article
1/6/2020
Air Force Staff Sgt. Danny Lim practices conducting a throat examination on Army Sgt. Harvey Drayton at Chabelley Airfield, Djibouti. Drayton and Lim were introduced to the Telehealth In A Bag system during a recent visit that included personnel from Regional Health Command Europe's virtual health team. (U.S. Army photo by Russell Toof)

Djibouti hosts the largest U.S. American military base on the African continent

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Air Force studies fatigue, sleep to enhance readiness

Article
12/31/2019
An Air Force Airman sleeps inside a C-17 Globemaster III during a flight over an undisclosed location in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration)

Good sleep habits are closely related to overall health and performance

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Sleep

Air Force International Health Specialist builds medical capability in Iraq

Article
12/30/2019
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jessica Cowden, Infectious Disease Programs chief with the Defense Institute for Medical Operations, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, poses for a photo with the NATO Mission Iraq Embedded Training Team during the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, June 25, 2019. (Photo By Josh Mahler)

Cowden’s work facilitated the exchange of medical knowledge and practices between Kurdish and Iraqi security forces.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Guard and Reserve crucial to CCATT expansion

Article
12/20/2019
Air Force Maj. Lori Wyatt, a Critical Care Air Transport Team nurse, assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, West Virginia, assembles a gurney during a casualty evacuation training at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport. The Air Force is increasing the number of CCATTs to support future readiness requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. De-Juan Haley)

The Guard and Reserve support the bulk of aeromedical evacuation, CCATT capabilities

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Global Health Engagement strengthens partnerships

Article
12/20/2019
U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Sullivan, a pediatrician assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort, gives a sticker to a two-year-old boy after examining his skin infection at a temporary medical treatment site in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. During Comfort’s deployment, the crew worked with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at a temporary medical treatment site, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems, including those strained by an increase in cross-border migrants. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maria G. Llanos)

GHE advances U.S. national security interests around the world

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Air Force, Army medics save groom

Article
12/19/2019
Airmen from the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron simulate life-saving procedures to a training manikin onboard a KC-135 Stratotanker during an exercise out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th AES maintains a forward operating presence, and was instrumental in saving an Airman’s life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Seefeldt)

NCO’s first aeromedical evacuation mission was definitely challenging

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Military Hospitals and Clinics

McCaffery AMSUS Remarks 2019

Publication
12/5/2019

McCaffery statements made during the 2019 annual meeting of AMSUS

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

McCaffery calls for military medical strategic framework for warfighting readiness

Article
12/5/2019
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Tom McCaffery speaks on Thursday at the annual meeting of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals. McCaffery announced to the nearly 2,000 conference attendees that he has asked the Military Health System's senior leadership to develop and codify a formal strategic framework to guide integrating and optimizing all MHS components to meet his vision. (MHS photo)

'New reality' includes tight synchronization, expanding partnerships

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | MHS Transformation

Network of researchers advancing warfighter readiness

Article
12/4/2019
Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee Payne, the assistant director for Combat Support at DHA, delivered the keynote address at the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance Scientific and Programmatic Advancement Meeting, GSPAM. He emphasized the importance of Force Health Protection measures and linked the GEIS mission to DHA’s combat support mission. (DoD photo)

In fiscal year 2020, GEIS awarded approximately $60 million to more than 20 DoD laboratories and U.S. government partners

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Global Health Engagement | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance

Ship-based Global Health Engagement

Article
12/4/2019
Navy Capt. Heather King, executive director of the TriService Nursing Research Program at the Uniformed Services University, details the process of ship-based global health engagement missions during the October 22, 2019, Medical Museum Science Café titled "Ship-Based Global Health Engagement Missions: Expanding Global Partnerships" at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland. (NMHM photo)

Global health engagement is an important priority for military medicine

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | National Museum of Health and Medicine

World AIDS Day puts spotlight on landmark DoD study

Article
12/2/2019
Dr. John Mascola, director of the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center, discusses HIV vaccine progress at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Nov. 26, during a World AIDS Day commemoration.  (U.S. Army photo)

Vaccine study shows infection risk lowered by 31 percent, offering hope for future

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Research and Innovation | Global Health Engagement
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 44

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.