TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Hawaii -- Shortly after a fire broke out July 17 aboard the Peruvian navy corvette Guise (CC-28), Tripler Army Medical Center received a call that injured patients were on the way.
Guise was in Hawaii participating in Rim of the Pacific, the world’s largest international maritime exercise.
“The initial call came in around 10 a.m. to the Tripler Emergency Department and from there we began opening the appropriate lines on communication to ensure that we were prepared to receive these patients,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Lambe, noncommissioned officer in charge of Tripler’s Emergency Department.
“We first had to determine how many patients were injured. The initial reports indicated we might see up to 80 patients,” Lambe said.
Lambe assumed the role of incident commander and contacted the 3rd Fleet Medical Surgeon Cell to confirm the number of patients and the extent of their injuries.
The call confirmed that two sailors with burns covering up to 75 percent of their bodies would be transported to Tripler.
“After we confirmed the number of patients, we coordinated with Straub Medical Center in Honolulu to confirm they had room,” said Lambe. “We then had to confirm the type of U.S. Navy aircraft being used to transport patients in order to authorize landing at Tripler. FedFire, the EMS crew at Tripler, was called in to transport the patients from the helipad to Tripler, along with military police to stop traffic on the roads around the helipad.”
Inside Tripler, two trauma teams, comprised of surgeons, emergency room physicians, nurses, medics, radiology, blood bank, and respiratory therapists, stood by, ready to help the injured sailors.
“This team came together to ensure that we could provide life saving interventions to stabilize and transport these patients down to Straub Medical Center in the best possible condition,” said Lambe.
After the two sailors spent a few days at Straub, they were transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, via the U.S. Air Force’s Critical Care Air Transport Team, for long-term treatment and management of care.
“This emergency underscores the importance of the close relationships that we have here in Hawaii between the community hospitals and the military,” said Col. Bill Soliz, Tripler’s commander. “The close coordination in this case ensured we were able to provide necessary medical care to a partner nation.”
After the patients were stabilized and the fire extinguished, the U.S. Navy Food Management team reached out to Public Health Activity-Hawaii, requesting an inspection of the food that was in Guise’s walk-in freezer and refrigerator storage, which had been without power for more than four days.
“We knew as soon as we opened the freezer that there were obvious signs of temperature abuse, but we obviously still wanted to help as much as possible,” said Staff Sgt. Marissa Henson, noncommissioned officer in charge of U.S. Food Inspection for RIMPAC.
Until this point the food inspectors had only been inspecting the food consumed by American servicemembers participating in RIMPAC; they were glad to have the opportunity to support a partner nation in a time of need. During the inspection Henson elected to bring along Sgt. Yamil Jorge, a food inspector who could also converse with the Peruvian Sailors in their native language.
“I was also excited to get the opportunity to do my job in Spanish for the first time,” said Jorge. “It’s good the Army is so diverse, because when these things happen you have Soldiers like me who know different languages and cultures and can jump into action to have impact.”
Most of the items had to be discarded but some processed food could be extended.
The joint inspection ensured the continued health of Peruvian sailors, allowing them to safely proceed with RIMPAC training.
“We are always ready to support, synchronize and integrate the medical effort for our Joint partners and partner nations,” said Brig Gen. Ned Bailey, Regional Health Command-Pacific commanding general.
Regional Health Command-Pacific is geographically the Army’s largest regional health command and includes medical, dental, public health, veterinary, and warrior care and recovery facilities located in Hawaii, Washington state, Alaska, California, Japan, Guam, and Korea.