Hundreds of military medics are deploying to states hardest hit by the coronavirus to provide assistance and relief for hospitals and their staff. States like California, which this week had more than 500 COVID-related deaths in one day alone.
“None of us have seen what we've seen in these last couple months. It's tragic. It's devastating,” Sharon Brown said.
Sharon Brown says they are running out of beds and space to treat COVID patients at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, California.
“The emergency department we have set up tents in the parking lot, and we've set up portable structures. Because when the hospital's full, the backup is in the emergency department. So they are holding ICU COVID patients, regular med surge tele COVID patients down in the emergency department, until we get an open bed,” Brown said.
Capt. Ashley Mills was assigned to the medical center after Brown requested assistance through FEMA. She is one of 75 Army and Air Force members deployed to California as part of a Defense Department COVID-19 Response Operation.
“Patients are the reason that I get out of bed every morning. I love my job. There are low lows, and there are plenty of high highs. And that's what motivates me to get out of bed," Mills said.
Due to COVID, family members are not allowed into the hospital to see their loved ones.
“Their family members are dying with no one at the bedside," Brown said.
Capt. Mills is the line of communication between patients and their families.
“I make it a priority every day to foster communication with, with families. We need to be optimistic to heal. This is a journey, but when you've developed COVID, it's a journey. It's a challenge, and you need your your family support. And if you feel isolated, it could hinder you," Mills said.
Mills says she will continue to assist as long as she is requested. Right now, most members are on a 30-day rotation.
“All my patients have been very gracious of the care that I give them, and they appreciate at least even if it, it failed, at least the attempt at trying to communicate, with allowing them to communicate with their families," Mills said.
Brown says the military has helped provide relief to doctors and nurses who are working up to six shifts a week.
“It's helped a lot. What we've been able to do with the assistance from the military is we've been able to expand our ICU beds. Our ICU are all at capacity. But we've able, we've been able to expand part of the recovery room area for additional ICU patients. And now that we have additional staff, we've been able to staff those areas," Brown said.
In addition to this support in California, around 100 military medical personnel are helping treat COVID-19 patients in North Dakota, Wisconsin and the Navajo Nation.