Exclusive: Military Doctor Shares Experience of Serving at Local Hospital During COVID Surge

“It’s been an honor to protect these people here in this community,” says Captain Tyler Padgett, DO. 

For nearly three weeks Padgett and 20 other healthcare professionals with 60th Air Wing Medical Group from Travis Air Force Base have been serving a very important mission at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage: caring for COVID-19 patients.

“It’s been a really rewarding experience so far, my colleagues and I are feeling very energized to be a part of this mission,” says Padgett. 

They’re assigned to the COVID units and emergency room assessing and admitting suspected COVID patients. 

“We’ve seen a wide variety of illness both from people we’ve been able to send home and people that go to the ICU (intensive care unit),” says Padgett.

Dr. Alan Williamson, the hospital’s chief medical officer says when the team arrived they were dealing with a COVID surge and operating nearly at capacity, “So the staff was worried, the staff was really tired from four months plus of work and now just seeing those numbers  rage out of control was really disheartening so the first and most important job they had here was really just a morale boost to the staff of the staff that had been working here already and that was invaluable.” 

The military medical team has stepped up to the challenges of treating patients suffering the worst effects of the virus, constantly having to put on protective equipment, coping with the stresses of knowing you can potentially get sick and being there for patients who can’t have contact with loved ones. 

“Providing a lot of emotional support to the patients who are scared, who are sick, who are short of breath,” says Williamson

“It feels very powerful to be able to hold someone’s hand whenever they’re scared,” says Padgett.

And yet they are far from home and families facing an unknown enemy.

“I imagine for the family members this is probably you know nearly as frightening as them being deployed out into a war zone,” says Williamson.  

But if they’re scared they don’t show it they just focus on the mission.

“To help Americans in their time of need no matter where they are, we stand ready and willing to do so,” says Padgett.

The team is assigned to be at the hospital for a total of 30 days but may possibly get an extension or may even get reassigned to assist at another hospital. There are about 160 air force personnel deployed in across California helping in the COVID fight. They will be deployed until FEMA and the Department of Defense feel their mission is complete.

We are grateful to them and their families for their service and sacrifice.

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