LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Over the next month, a United States Army medical unit will be helping the already fatigued Arkansas hospital staff handle the increased capacity by treating both COVID and non-COVID patients.
Chief Medical Officer of UAMS Steppe Mette said he hopes the response unit will not only bring some relief but boost morale as well.
“We expect to take care of anything and everything that comes through the doors. We were sent here to support on a COVID-19 mission,” Lieutenant Colonel Suzanne Cobleigh said.
She joined the United States Army medical department 20 years ago and the mission for her has always been the same.
“To be caring and to be kind and to help people live better lives, and this is the best opportunity that we can have to serve the nation and the community,” Cobleigh said.
For some of her fellow servicemen and women, this mission will be a first.
When Sergeant Daniel Badillo was asked to be a part of the effort in Arkansas, he instantly considered the people who mean so much to him before going out to a COVID battlefield.
“At first, I thought about my family, and I had to break the news to them, but lucky for them, they are already used to it with the multiple deployments on our end,” Badillo said.
They are part of a team of four doctors, 14 nurses, and two respiratory therapists.
They are all stationed inside the state’s largest hospital and will be there for 30 days.
“That's the team that we brought, we consolidated to provide support for the hospital,” Badillo said.
As the number of Arkansans hospitalized grows, Mette said the unit’s willingness to lend a helping hand in getting this pandemic under control brings a sense of hope and relief.
“Any additional personnel is welcome and, of course, the biggest impact will be that we'll be able to take care of more Arkansans that need our help,” Mette said.
The medical response team will be inside the critical care unit, a unit specifically for COVID-19 patients, the non-ICU COVID-19 unit, and the emergency room.
These areas are being hit the hardest at the hospital.
Being able to be in Arkansans and helping the community is something that Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Grasso said is personal.
He added that being in the hospital and helping in this pandemic also means he is giving back to his country while on U.S. soil.
“[It is a] really unique opportunity when you sign up to serve that nation, to actually be able to do so here in this state of Arkansas, or any of the other states that we have where we are actually helping Americans,” said Grasso.
The Department of Defense sent more medical response teams to at least nine other areas in the United States.
Arkansas was chosen after Governor Asa Hutchinson requested additional help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency since the hospital is overwhelmed with patients.