Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Miami, FL TCCT, Deputy Commander
When three hospitals in El Paso, Texas, were under extreme pressure from a surge in COVID-19 cases, Bridget Pelaez was there with a team of about 100 experts from across the country.Bridget is a deputy commander of a National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Trauma and Critical Care Team (TCCT) of medical professionals who provide critical, operative, and emergency care to help people in the wake of disasters and public health emergencies. In El Paso she helped lead a team working with local hospital staff to respond to the increase in cases by providing care to patients in a COVID-19 unit. “The hospital staff literally had tears in their eyes when they saw us come in to help with some of the toughest patients of their lives.”The team treated some of the most severe patients in El Paso, specifically providing care to intubated patients. Describing the scene, Bridget indicated, “To meet the patient demand, we repurposed an endoscopy floor into an ICU with fully ventilated COVID patients.” She added, “We were focused on working with the hospital to provide the best care to patients that need it the most and support the local hospital system with important critical care.”As a TCCT deputy commander, Bridget is dedicated to ensuring that the NDMS medical professionals have the support they need to fulfill their mission of providing exceptional care in the worst of times. “It was an honor to be able to represent NDMS on that mission and to support the community of El Paso.”When not in the field with her TCCT, Bridget is the assistant director for the Division of Operations and Safety at Florida International University (FIU). She has an EMT-paramedic certification, a nursing degree, and a master’s degree in disaster management.Along with responding to COVID-19, in her almost 10 years working with NDMS Bridget has responded to many disasters, including hurricanes and earthquakes. She is proud of how quickly her team can come to the aid of disaster survivors. “When TCCT arrives at the scene, such as after a hurricane, we can set up a fully operational austere field hospital in eight hours.” She added, “One of the best things you can do as a healthcare responder is represent our nation’s health response in disasters and be surrounded by brothers and sisters that care not only about the survivors and the mission but also about each other.”For NDMS heroes, no two paths are exactly the same. But each person’s passion for their profession and compassion for people in desperate situations is unmistakable. And the human and community impact of each contribution is unmeasurable.
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