A big thanks to our medical professionals

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jamey Hartsel
  • Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center
I was recently deployed to a forward operating base on the eastern Afghanistan border, and sustained a devastating back injury that incapacitated me. I was unable to sit up, stand up or walk.

At that moment, I became totally dependent on those around me to ensure my safety, well-being and treatment. It was a very humbling experience. My teammates at the regional contracting center obtained a stretcher. Like we all practiced in combat skills training, they moved me to medical care without further injury.

Once at the clinic, I was prepped for medevac via helicopter and was soon in the hands of our contingency hospital at Bagram. During the chopper ride, I began feeling disappointed and unequal to the casualties around me. My injury was not combat related.

As our helicopter landed and the initial triage began, a chaplain saw the disappointment in my eyes. "You're just as important as anyone here, regardless of how it happened, and we will take good care of you," he said.

He made me realize that I was worthy of the care I was receiving and that my sacrifice was no less than any of the other casualties around me. I was provided terrific care from some incredible doctors and nurses. The hospital staff's care and genuine concern for my individual plight, despite the chaos of all battlefield injuries surrounding me, brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

After a brief stint at Bagram, I was prepped for medevac to Landstuhl hospital in Germany. I will never forget the seven-hour ride in that C-17. Once again the care I received during the flight was tremendous. At Landstuhl, the medical staff ensured my care was top-notch (despite our arrival at nearly midnight on the Fourth of July). I could tell by the spring in their step and sparkle in the eyes of the technicians and nurses removing me from the medevac bus that there was nothing more pressing for them than taking care of us.

Shortly after my assessment at Landstuhl, my injury qualified me for medevac to the United States. Once again the professionalism of the C-17 casualty evacuation crew was outstanding and my nine-hour trip to America went very well. Upon landing I was informed that I was headed to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Uneducated on the casualty treatment process for Air Force personnel, I immediately became nervous that as an Air Force member, I would be shifted to the darkest corner of that Army hospital never to be heard from again, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Upon arrival at Walter Reed I was met by an Air Force liaison that personally walked my gurney to my room and made sure that I understood that I would not be alone in this ordeal. My treatment at Walter Reed was incredible. The staff tirelessly worked my injuries throughout my two days of inpatient care. After a steroid injection and lots of pain medication, I actually began to walk again and within a week I was returned to my base begin the long process of acute diagnosis, possible surgery and recovery. I know I have a long way to go to fully recover, but I'm very thankful that I received the quality of care and treatment from my comrades at the forward operating base and in our military hospitals and clinics along the way.

Overall, the trip from Afghanistan to Walter Reed took less than 100 hours. Nothing compares to the professionals I met along the way. Sadly, their faces and names are a blur to me, but that should in no way diminish my deep, deep gratitude for their compassionate care for wounded warriors. Thank you all so much for a job well done every day.