U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kristal Avila, health systems technician with 110th Medical Group, 110th Air Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, with Vorlor C. Ross, newborn intensive care unit nurse, and Zoe C. Giah, student nurse, at 14 Military Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, April 26, 2022. MING's State Partnership Program with Liberia was on full display as various medical units conducted a medical "best practices" exchange at the hospital. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Joe Legros)
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kristal Avila, health systems technician with 110th Medical Group, 110th Air Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, with Vorlor C. Ross, newborn intensive care unit nurse, and Zoe C. Giah, student nurse, at 14 Military Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, April 26, 2022. MING's State Partnership Program with Liberia was on full display as various medical units conducted a medical "best practices" exchange at the hospital. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Joe Legros) (Photo Credit: Capt. Joe Legros) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Capt. Matthew Gomberg, a battalion physician assistant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, Michigan National Guard, with a cardiac patient in 14 Military Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, April 26, 2022. MING's medical team helped hospital staff resuscitate the man. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Joe Legros)
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Capt. Matthew Gomberg, a battalion physician assistant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, Michigan National Guard, with a cardiac patient in 14 Military Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, April 26, 2022. MING's medical team helped hospital staff resuscitate the man. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Joe Legros) (Photo Credit: Capt. Joe Legros) VIEW ORIGINAL

MONROVIA, Liberia – The man was dead.

“He completely flatlined for a little over two minutes,” said U.S. Army Capt. Matthew Gomberg, a battalion physician assistant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, Michigan National Guard. “Without the emergency medical team’s intervention, the patient would have certainly passed away.”

Gomberg’s medical team visited the hospital as part of Michigan’s State Partnership Program with Liberia.

MING began working with the Armed Forces of Liberia in November 2009, assisting the country with its medical response to infectious disease, engineering support and exchange of military best practices. The SPP is unique in that it links a state’s National Guard with the military forces of another country in a mutually beneficial partnership.

Although many previous engagements involved sharing of military best practices, this weeklong visit April 25-29 focused on advancing the capabilities of Liberia’s new 14 Military Hospital.

The visit could not have come at a more opportune time for one man.

A 72-year-old man was admitted to 14 Military Hospital April 25, complaining of chest pains. After monitoring his heart with the hospital’s new electrocardiogram, emergency room personnel immediately knew the man was in critical condition.

“The EKG indicated he had a potentially lethal cardiac arrhythmia,” Gomberg said.

The medics attempted treatment with medication, but his condition continued to destabilize. And then his heart stopped.

“We immediately administered CPR,” said Gomberg. “We managed to get his pulse back after he died, but he still had an unstable rhythm. At that point, he was defibrillated and a normal heart rhythm was restored.”

The man was kept in the hospital overnight for observation and tests, but the following day he was alert and released.

The cardiac resuscitation on the first day of the Michigan medical team’s visit was the first performed at the hospital.

For the rest of the week, Michigan Air and Army National Guard members provided mentorship and assessed medical and administrative capabilities. Along with the lifesaving intervention in the ER, activities included orthopedic surgeries, hands-on suture training and assistance in the newborn intensive care unit.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James Dewitt and Sgt. Gustavo Pop Monroy, combat medics also assigned to 3-126th IN, mentored the staff responding to adult and pediatric emergencies.

Joining the team was U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Bearup, executive officer for the 1171st Medical Company Area Support, 146th Medical Battalion, who assessed the ER, finance, human resources, triage operations, and pharmaceutical and supply requests.

“It was ideal timing that our team was going over EKG and heart monitoring on Day One,” said Bearup. “Because two of the first few patients we saw in the ER had major heart issues.”

Along with their Army counterparts, U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Hannah MacDonald, Medical Service Corps, and Master Sgt. Kristal Avila, health systems technician with 110th Medical Group, both assigned to the 110th Air Wing, provided guidance on numerous functional areas.

“We’re sending three medical teams to work closely with Liberian partners over a six-week period this summer,” said MacDonald. “Our current visit will tell us which areas need the most focus at the hospital.”

She said health care administration and nursing leadership will be key areas for development at the country’s first military hospital.

MacDonald said she was amazed at the progress since her last visit when the hospital opened in September. Avila agreed.

“This has been an amazing experience,” said Avila. “My favorite part was working with the young moms and infants in the children’s malnutrition program.”

Dr. Kevin Strathy, a retired American plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and his wife, Natu, a native-born Liberian nurse, serve as medical consultants at the hospital. They started a medical nonprofit to attain donations of supplies and equipment.

Natu, who received medical training in England, mentors the nursing staff. Her focus is on making each section of the hospital more efficient and developing additional capabilities, such as introducing a burn victim unit.

Strathy teamed with Gomberg to lead suture courses during the medical exchange. They emphasized wearing gloves and properly closing wounds to prevent infection — an important practice where antibiotics are in short supply.

U.S. Army Maj. Jason Everts, MING’s bilateral affairs officer to AFRICOM based in Liberia, said the Michigan Guard collaborates with U.S. African Command, the U.S. Embassy in Liberia, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations.

“The AFL and 14 Military Hospital are doing incredible work,” he said. “We value their partnership, and we’re continually looking for more ways to assist them in serving the people of Liberia.”

During the April visit, Michigan Guard members determined the hospital should focus on preventive medicine, stroke awareness and treating burn victims.

One thing is clear: The hospital is already saving lives. But more people need to know.

“I tell those who are sick or hurt that they should pray,” said Everts. “But pray on your way to the hospital!”

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