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62 AW airlifts COVID-19 patient to Texas

A COVID-19 patient who was being cared for at Madigan Army Medical Center is loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III by an aeromedical evacuation team from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight from Travis Air Force Base, California, and other medical professionals from Madigan, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. The patient was in severe respiratory distress and was hooked up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (EMCO) system, which aids the body in breathing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

A COVID-19 patient who was being cared for at Madigan Army Medical Center is loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III by an aeromedical evacuation team from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight from Travis Air Force Base, California, and other medical professionals from Madigan, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. The patient was in severe respiratory distress and was hooked up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (EMCO) system, which aids the body in breathing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

A COVID-19 patient who was being cared for at Madigan Army Medical Center, is loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III by an aeromedical evacuation team from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight from Travis Air Force Base, California, and other medical professionals from Madigan, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. The patient was in severe respiratory distress and was hooked up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (EMCO) system, which aids the body in breathing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

A COVID-19 patient who was being cared for at Madigan Army Medical Center, is loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III by an aeromedical evacuation team from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight from Travis Air Force Base, California, and other medical professionals from Madigan, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. The patient was in severe respiratory distress and was hooked up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (EMCO) system, which aids the body in breathing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

An aeromedical evacuation team from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight at Travis Air Force Base, California, and other medical professionals from Madigan Army Medical Center, board a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. The team airlifted a COVID-19 patient with severe symptoms to San Antonio Army Medical Center in Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

An aeromedical evacuation team from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight at Travis Air Force Base, California, and other medical professionals from Madigan Army Medical Center, board a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. The team airlifted a COVID-19 patient with severe symptoms to San Antonio Army Medical Center in Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight from Travis Air Force Base, California, don personal protective equipment aboard a C-17 Globemaster III on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. Aeromedical evacuation personnel are responsible for caring for medical patients in-flight and preparing a safe environment for them as well as the aircrew. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight from Travis Air Force Base, California, don personal protective equipment aboard a C-17 Globemaster III on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. Aeromedical evacuation personnel are responsible for caring for medical patients in-flight and preparing a safe environment for them as well as the aircrew. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight from Travis Air Force Base, California, cover their luggage and equipment with a plastic tarp aboard a C-17 Globemaster III on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. They covered their equipment and luggage with plastic in preparation for a COVID-19 patient who was being flown to San Antonio Army Medical Center in Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight from Travis Air Force Base, California, cover their luggage and equipment with a plastic tarp aboard a C-17 Globemaster III on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 31, 2021. They covered their equipment and luggage with plastic in preparation for a COVID-19 patient who was being flown to San Antonio Army Medical Center in Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

The 62nd Airlift Wing’s quick action enabled a COVID-19 patient to be airlifted from JBLM to San Antonio Military Medical Center, Texas, March 31.

The individual was a patient at Madigan Army Medical Center here. The individual was in severe respiratory distress and had undergone surgery earlier to be hooked up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) system. The system pumps and oxygenates a patient's blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

Earlier that day, an aircrew made up of Airmen from the 4th and 7th Airlift Squadrons picked up an aeromedical evacuation team from the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight at Travis Air Force Base, California. The evacuation team are experts in and caring for patients during flights.

“The timing [of loading and takeoff] is a little more flexible [with an aeromedical flight] than it normally is just based on the needs of the mission,” said Maj. Ian Scott, 4th Airlift Squadron pilot. “The biggest thing we have to be mindful of [with mission planning for an AE flight] is what type of restrictions the patient’s condition would have on the environment in the airplane.”

The patient was being transported to SAMMC, where there are more available people who are experts on the ECMO system and will be readily able maintain or repair it if something went wrong.

The patient arrived at the aircraft with several additional medical professionals from Madigan trained in keeping the ECMO system running. Before their arrival, the AE crew covered their luggage and equipment in plastic bags to lessen the risk of cross-contamination and everyone on the aircraft wore the appropriate personal protective equipment.

“What we do is to make sure that the patient’s transportation goes smoothly and safely,” said Maj. Paul Blycheck, 775th EAEF medical crew director. “We have to consider the safety of the patient, and everyone involved – the AE crew, the pilots, and loadmasters – especially when it’s something contagious, like COVID-19.”

The patient was hooked up to a full ventilator, in addition to the ECMO system, so anything they were breathing out was contained, Blycheck said.

The crew successfully took off later that night and transported the patient to SAMMC where they were evaluated.

“It was good to see all of these individuals from different branches and bases come together last minute to potentially save this patient’s life,” said Col. Robert Lankford, 62nd Operations Group commander. “I am proud of the Airmen of the 62nd Airlift Wing for making the mission happen.”

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