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Suriname emergency ASTS still makes house calls

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ronald Holbeck
  • 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron
On their recent deployment to Suriname, members of the 934 ASTS relied heavily on the Surinamese military to assist them with translation as well as to guide them while they interacted with the local population. The Surinamese military members were a valuable tool when it came to patient flow, force protection, and general patient care. 

The deployed reservists quickly found out how valuable those Surinamese soldiers were when they were all faced with a sudden crisis, which placed their Surinamese counterparts in a medical emergency. While providing healthcare to the people of Albina, Suriname, many of the Surinamese soldiers started complaining about stomach cramps. Shortly after noon, the severity of these cramps caused some of the soldiers to collapse in pain and developed high fevers. 

Soon, while providing healthcare to the civilian population of Suriname, the deployed Air Force members were providing emergency care to their co-workers, who were all facing an unknown illness which could quickly have resulted in severe dehydration in the humid equatorial heat. 

Nurses and med-techs rapidly began putting together a treatment area where they started IV fluids in hopes of stabilizing their condition.
Three Suriname soldiers required transfer to a hospital for additional treatment. The hospital was located in Paramiribo, which was over three long hours away. Two members of the team, Lt Col Fran McCabe, who is an IMA from the Pentagon, and Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Schroeder of the 934 ASTS agreed to ride the ambulance with the soldiers so that they could continue to provide care en route. 

As the ill troops and the Air Force members were on their journey to the Paramaribo hospital, many of the remaining Surinamese soldiers began to show symptoms of the illness. Three more soldiers required IV fluids, which were started by the deployed team members. Colonel McCabe and Sergeant Schroeder returned to base camp after six hours of traveling only to find that there was an entirely new group of soldiers who also needed transport to the hospital. 

Colonel McCabe and Sergeant Schroeder, who had already endured a full regular workday, then spent over six hours transporting ill patients to Paramaribo, quickly volunteered to assist the new group of ill soldiers through the dark jungle to the city of Paramaribo. The two provided critical patient care to their friends and co-workers and in the end had worked almost a full 24-hour day. 

Many would have used this long night as an excuse to miss the next day's work. But Colonel McCabe and Sergeant Schroeder, realizing the healthcare members would be severely shorthanded with the loss of so many translators and assistants, were back with the group the next morning and worked tirelessly alongside the group performing the mission they were sent to do. 

As for the Surinamese patients, their diagnosis was shigellosis, a food and water-borne illness usually caused by poor hygiene. Realizing they had the opportunity to possibly educate and possible prevent another outbreak from occurring in the future, the deployed military public health team inspected the Surinamese living quarters and found such discrepancies as thawed and refrozen foods, shared water bottles, lack of soap, use of contaminated river water and generally poor hygiene practices, especially when it came to hand washing. With that information, the deployed healthcare providers found themselves giving an impromptu field hygiene class to their Surinamese counterparts. And, from this experience, we were all reminded of the importance of good hygiene and sanitation, especially when in the field.