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Yet, the ongoing pandemic has called upon Navy Medicine respiratory therapists like Hazard to be sent from sea to shore to help against the highly-infectious disease.
Whether it’s embarking overseas on a Navy nuclear aircraft carrier or traveling to a rural hospital setting in America, corpsmen with respiratory therapist skills have demonstrated that they are indeed a ready medical force when called upon.
“Readiness is big time for us,” said Hazard. “When I chose respiratory therapist I thought it was a very low deployable platform and wouldn’t have that big of a risk to leave my family – young twins - behind to deploy. Now COVID hits and we’re being deployed on every platform which we probably would have never gone on before and all these CONUS [continental U.S.] deployments which are still ongoing.”
Hazard recently returned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton after deploying on behalf of Joint Task Force Civil Support for approximately eight weeks to Ozark, Alabama. As a member of Navy Medicine’s Medical Response Team Ozark, Hazard and other active duty nurses, providers and hospital corpsmen were integrated into Dale Medical Center as part of the Department of Defense COVID response operations in conjunction with U.S. Northern Command and Federal Emergency Management Agency to help overwhelmed hospital staff deal with an influx of COVID-19 patients.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Rutledge, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Unit Everett officer in charge and team lead, there was a need for Hazard and HM2 Sebastien Fontanges, assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, both respiratory therapists, to get acclimated as soon as possible due to the departure of more than half of Alabama hospital’s respiratory therapist staff just prior to their arrival.
“Which put them in lead support, with the challenge of what readiness really means in this new environment. Hazard and Fontanges were a great team in a unique opportunity to serve fellow Americans right in their hometowns using the skills the Navy taught them. They did it very well,” explained Rutledge.
“Without us, they would have had to shut down certain parts of the hospital without having enough people to staff shifts. They were very grateful to have us there to help them out. That was what everyone was saying, how thankful they were that they were being supported by our team. We could tell they were exhausted when we got there. They were overworked and happy to have relief,” added Hazard, an Oxnard, Calif. native with nine years of Navy experience.
With COVID-19 being a respiratory disease, those afflicted can have their lungs fill with fluid. Inflammation can set in. Patients have low oxygen levels and trouble breathing. Hazard was in high demand. She was charged with helping patients’ breath and deal with any airway problems. She provided 180 hours of direct clinical care for 96 patients on a 25-bed COVID unit, seven-bed intensive care unit and 12-bed emergency department. She even volunteered four hours to mentor 150 students at Ozark High School on career opportunities in Navy Medicine and the military as a whole.
It proved to be an emotionally challenging assignment, yet one she trained for and was prepared to handle. She wanted to be able to provide patient-centered care in an inpatient setting, which was exactly what she did.
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