Home Town Proud
Brewster's own Quincy Paramedic and Worcester firefighter Patrick Brown is a member of the Metro-Boston (MA-1) Disaster Medical Assistance Team, a component of the National Disaster Medical System. After the devastation of Hurricane Irma (second strongest Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic) and Hurricane Maria (tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record and most intense tropical cyclone worldwide), Patrick and his MA-1 team were activated to provide emergency medical care to those in need.
Across the country, almost 6,000 medical professionals (physicians, registered nurses, dentists, EMTs, paramedics, etc.) serve with the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). Similar to how the US National Guard functions, these medical professionals deploy to assist during disasters and emergencies, providing expert care and services in conditions that are often austere and challenging.
A Catastrophic Hurricane Season
After assembling in Atlanta, Patrick and his fellow Metro-Boston DMAT team were deployed to the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma, and then to Puerto Rico to provide medical care after Hurricane Maria.
About a month after Hurricane Maria passed through, the team deployed to Puerto Rico. They started at the US Naval Hospital Ship Comfort, which was in port in San Juan, and set up a field hospital. They were the initial intake for patients who would either receive treatment or be transferred to a hospital. If the latter, the team functioned as paramedics with the US Department of Defense (DOD) and supplemented medical care.
The team worked at a field hospital on the pier that had already been set up as an ongoing operation and provided relief to the medical personnel there. They were seeing anywhere from 200-400 people a day just in that field hospital. Some of those patients were acute, some were more chronic, untreated or difficulty accessing health care. The team would treat the acute (about 15% of the patients) or dispatch to a local hospital or into the USNHS Comfort using the US DOD or the team's transports.
However, in Utuabo, a rural municipality in the mountains of Puerto Rico, it was a different story. The team was sent to perform well visits for people who couldn't get medical care or had no access to medication for chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension. They were deeply impacted, as a lot of the health care providers had left the area in anticipation of the storm and hadn't returned. To get through, the team had to physically clear impassable roads. At one point a primary access bridge over the Vivi River had been washed out, and there were a couple hundred people on the other side that still needed help.
When asked, Patrick said, "The people of Puerto Rico were super friendly and they were very happy that we were helping them. They hadn't had access to simple things like getting prescriptions refilled." The team was in Utuabo for three days following other teams that had also provided care.
At the field hospital in San Juan, the team worked side by side with US Navy medical providers, corpsmen, and US Department of Defense personnel for a total of about 15 days.
When asked about his experience, Patrick responded, "I'm leaving my job here to go down there, and it takes a toll on family life as well as my work. When you're away from home you miss things, but once you get down there and see how people are living and what they're dealing with, it puts everything into perspective."
The Metro-Boston DMAT (MA-1) team is unique in that everyone on the team is 100% clinical and can function medically in some capacity. The team gets together four times a year to physically train and also collaborate online or via conference calls. The team also volunteers their expertise at the Boston Marathon every year, where they man four different "Enhanced Medical Stations" bringing Advanced Life Support (ALS) capability with them.
Visit these links for more information about Metro-Boston DMAT and the NDMS Teams: