624th AMDF nurse provides lifesaving care during ARCTIC CARE 2017

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Luke Johnson
KODIAK, ALASKA- The tropical island of Guam is a far cry from the rugged environment on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Nevertheless, for one Air Force Reserve nurse, the change of environment is not stopping her from providing exceptional medical care to residents of the island during ARCTIC CARE 2017.

The nurse was instrumental in ensuring that a patient from Kodiak be referred to a higher level of care potentially saving his life. On the third day of patient care Nurse Practitioner Capt. Anna Cruz, 624th Aerospace Medicine Flight, Andersen AFB, Guam, was performing an annual physical exam when the patient told her that he had been experiencing intermittent chest pains at work.

“During my exam, I noticed he had a heart murmur that could indicate a serious condition, and it needed to get checked out some more,” said Cruz.

On recognizing this, the captain immediately referred the patient to the emergency department on Kodiak Island so further tests could be done to determine his heart condition.

“I was told that they did find some serious issues with his heart, and he needed to get medically evacuated off the island for emergency surgery in Anchorage,” said Cruz. “I was happy that we were able to catch that because it was an older patient, and he may have developed a much more serious heart condition. It would not have been a very good outcome.”

For Capt. Cruz, it's an honor to provide medical services on the island, and the training is invaluable for her as well.

“This is an awesome training experience. This is my first time participating in an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) exercise,” said Cruz. “This opportunity gives me a chance to see how I work in a deployed environment.”

According to Cruz, during a deployment, medical supplies and treatment spaces typically provided in a well equipped hospital aren’t as readily available.

“It teaches us how to think outside of the box, use equipment that we normally don’t use, and work with the other services” said Cruz. “We get to see things that we would normally not see, which puts us out of our comfort zone, so we can learn new things.”

ARCTIC CARE 2017 is part of the IRT program, which is an Office of Secretary of Defense sponsored civil-military collaboration intended to build mutually beneficial partnerships between U.S. communities and the DoD. ARCTIC CARE 2017 provides training opportunities for U.S. military (Active, Guard, Reserve) and Canadian Health service members to prepare for worldwide deployment while supporting the needs of underserved communities on Kodiak Island, Alaska.