The video images of the dead, particularly the children, after a chemical bombing earlier this week in Syria, only serves as a reminder to Tylerr Jones and Chris Hammond of why the work they will be doing is so critically important.
Jones, a registered nurse, and Hammond, a physician, both from Los Alamos, will be catching a midnight flight tonight on the first leg of their journey to Iraq, where they are volunteering their medical expertise for three weeks at a “trauma stabilization point” run by the World Health Organization just behind the front lines in West Mosul.
The men are members of Global Outreach Doctors, a Santa Fe-based humanitarian organization of medical professionals who respond to disasters worldwide.
Although they’re not likely to encounter gassing victims, they will certainly see civilans injuired by blasts and bullets in the crossfire between Islamic State fighters and Iraqi government forces, as well as injured Iraqi soldiers, said Hammond, an emergency room physician at Los Alamos Medical Center and at Presbyterian Hospital in Española.
“This is like combat medicine and I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Hammond, 35, who is new to Global Outreach Doctors. As a trauma and emergency room doctor, “I possess a unique skill set to be able to help,” he said. “There’s what’s called the golden hour, where we will basically have one hour to stabilize someone so they can be moved and get treated at a hospital.”
Hammond, who is married and has three children ages 11, 13 and 16, said his wife and children are “super supportive of me wanting to go there, but we are all, of course, a little scared of the possibilities.”
Part of the attraction is to have a new adventure, “otherwise you wouldn’t go,” said Hammond. “But I’m not trying to change the world. I just want to put the abilities I have to good use. I have a duty to serve more than just my community here in New Mexico; I have a duty to help humanity. It’s why we go into this profession from the beginning.”
Jones, 38, a registered nurse at the Los Alamos Medical Center Emergency Room and a firefighter in Santa Fe, also said this will be his first deployment to a war zone.
“I was told to expect 30 to 60 major traumas a day, and many of them will involve children. That was a major selling point for me,” he said.
“I know what’s at stake,” said Jones, who is married and has a 5-year-old daughter named Sophia. “It may not be my Sophia out there, but it’s someone else’s Sophia who may need my help. That’s what I do, and it’s easier to do when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
While his wife is “not thrilled” that he is putting himself in potential danger, “she knew the guy she married and she sort of expects me to do these kind of things,” he said.
Global Outreach Doctors was founded by Santa Fe naturopathic doctor Andrew Lustig. Its first mission was providing a team of health care professionals to the scene of an earthquake in Nepal in 2015. The organization has about 100 medical provider volunteers.
“Myself and most of the team members have been working humanitarian deployments for about 12 years and have worked together in different parts of the world,” Lustig said “We thought it would be better to work under a single banner and to provide free services not provided under one roof by anyone else – medical providers, search and rescue canines, and integrative health practitioners.”
Since its inception, Global Outreach Doctors has sent teams to Iraq, Nepal, Kenya, Lesbos island. It has served refugee populations and others affected by displacement, famine, infant mortality and chronic health issues, Lustig said.