Vt. Guard helping and learning on medical mission in Senegal

Published: Sep. 25, 2019 at 3:50 PM EDT
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Not all missions for the Vermont National Guard involve battlefields. Some take them to faraway places to take care of people.

"The size of the bleed was bigger than anything I've ever seen and I work in an ER back home," 2nd Lt. Eli Hogan said.

Hogan usually works at the UVM Medical Center. But the ER nurse won't forget what he saw on his latest mission-- a seemingly healthy, young woman who suffered a life-ending stroke.

"You have young people suffering strokes here where back home it's identified earlier," Hogan said.

Here is Kolda, Senegal. About 15 Vermont Army and Air National Guard members traveled to the West African nation on a two-week medical training mission.

"One of the main takeaways from working in this type of environment is getting our medical professionals outside their comfort zones," Lt. Col. Chris Gookin said.

Language barriers, a lack of drugs, supplies and equipment, and long days and nights are just some of the obstacles the team is facing while treating a host of illnesses.

"HIV, malaria, tuberculosis," Gookin listed.

Plus bone fractures, snake bites, seizures, dental work, eye care and various other emergency medical issues, along with five C-sections and numerous deliveries. Nearly 600 patients seen since Sept. 13 when the Vermonters arrived.

They're helping the Senegalese people but getting much in return.

"We are trying to work closely, share information and skill sets, and take some things home with us, as well," Gookin said.

The Vermont team will use what they've learned in future missions where the luxuries of U.S. health care are not available.

Most of the Vermonters are health care providers, combat medics or nurses, like Hogan.

"I work in the ER that was once said to be a Third World country and I can tell you I've now worked in ERs in Third World countries and that is most certainly not the case," Hogan said.

Most of the team in Senegal is due home by the end of the week. Some may arrive a few days after.

You may remember, WCAX News broke the story that the Guard is expecting a large deployment sometime in 2021.