Haiti
CPT Manuel Galaviz and his team complete the handoff of a burn patient in the patient hold unit at the airfield in Haiti.

FORT BENNING, Ga. - CPT Manuel Galaviz is a Soldier with two jobs. In his first, he's the company commander for A Company, Martin Army Community Hospital Troop Command. In his second, he's the brigade nurse for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, the unit currently tasked as the country's Global Response Force.

So, when 2nd BCT received the order to deploy to Haiti in January to support disaster relief and humanitarian operations, Galaviz got his orders as well. Once on the ground, he joined Soldiers of the brigade's "Charlie Med" company, a Level 2 medical asset providing advanced trauma and life support capability, which augmented Air Force medical assets.

And the two-month deployment provided experiences unlike those when he went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"It was different doing with the (Combat Support Hospital) and their organization," Galaviz said. "It's different going with just what's on your back, or what's in the tent." Going the way of the light Infantry meant that it would be two days from the Soldiers' arrival before their containers of supplies arrived.

The "Charlie Med" Soldiers set up for their patient hold mission collocated with the Air Force, whose medical team was able to treat patients, but not hold and care for them until they could be evacuated. Galaviz's team could provide care for 12 to 17 patients, allowing the Air Force time to plan for air evacuations to the USS Comfort and, for some patients, evacuation to the United States.

"At first, the patients came in spurts," Galaviz said. "But by the second week, we stayed at 11 or 12 patients - and that's just treating Haitians, not our Soldiers."

The Haitians came in with a variety of injuries and diseases, he said, including one gunshot victim. Many adults were paralyzed, had amputations or other crush-type injuries. Most of the pediatric cases involved critical head injuries from debris, including one 4-month-old girl whose mother brought her in "all dolled up in a pink and yellow dress with little flowers."

Galaviz supervised care for a local preacher who has been fueling his truck when the earthquake hit and sparked an explosion, causing severe burns. The man was sent across the airfield to the University of Miami Hospital before being evacuated to the USS Comfort, then on to a burn center in the United States.

"I saw some things some people don't get to see in their whole career nursing," he said. "Once the Haitians were evacuated, we started getting sick - nausea, vomiting - some malaria. I actually saw the bug that infests the red blood cells."

He also had a chance to see the devastation while on an evacuation flight to the USS Comfort.

"I could tell that the residential homes were pretty much rubble in the Port-au-Prince area," he said. People were living in mass camps under tarps and trash bags - anything to get out of the sun. There were crowds of people in the streets with nowhere to go."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16