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News | Aug. 30, 2021

LRMC obstetrics team aids in Afghan evacuee birth

By Marcy Sanchez

Following the landing of a U.S. Air Force C-17 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 21, a team of obstetrics specialists from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center assisted an Afghan evacuee in labor, delivering a healthy baby girl minutes after the C-17 landed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 21.

The medical response is part of ongoing U.S. military evacuation efforts of U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan.

Initially the team was responding to what they believed was a mid-flight childbirth. The team had 10 minutes to respond to the incident, but when they got to the aircraft, the mother was still in labor.

“We were initially told that the mom had already given birth on the plane,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Lamaar Melvin, an aerospace medical technician assigned to LRMC’s Labor and Delivery unit. “We got everything together, went out to the C-17 and checked to see how the baby is… but mom was barely crowning.”

Despite communication differences, U.S. Army Capt. Erin Brymer, a nurse with LRMC’s Labor and Delivery unit, took immediate action and tended to the Afghan evacuee just as she would any other patient.

“I was just trying to make eye contact with her and let her know that everything was OK, that she can deliver this baby safely and that we were ready for her,” said Brymer. “We were past the point of no return.”

The team, part of U.S. Armed Forces medical efforts in response to the Afghanistan evacuations, is one of many 24/7 medical teams staged at Ramstein Air Base, which has transformed itself into the logistical hub for the evacuation of people from Afghanistan in less than a week.

Brymer said her team was "expecting the worst, hoping for the best."

Additionally, the team roles were suddenly swapped to exclude Melvin, who normally assists at the bedside during delivery, from direct contact with the evacuee as religious and cultural mores rarely allow males as part of women’s health care teams.

“When we get out of the ambulance and into the (C-17), the evacuees were saying ‘no males, no males,” recalls U.S. Air Force Maj. Kristin Blouin, a neonatal nurse at LRMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and native of Tennessee Colony, Texas. “Our planning kind of went up in air.”

As part of the response, Blouin was attached to the team to assess the newborn for signs of complications but found herself filling in for Melvin to assist with the delivery.

At 3:19 p.m., four minutes after responding to the call, a baby girl was born.

Following the delivery, the mother and baby were transported to LRMC, where they are doing well.

“This is by far the most unique birthing situation that I've ever been a part of,” said Melvin, a native of Newburgh, New York. “I’ve been a part of car deliveries and everything but have never delivered in a C-17, I’ll probably never have that experience again.”

“It was a blessing, a very humbling experience to be out there and help mom and baby get here safely,” said Melvin.

“I've been in 21 years and seen a lot but never delivered a baby on a C-17,” said Blouin. “This stuff doesn't happen without a good team.”

As the largest U.S. hospital outside the United States and the only forward-stationed medical center for U.S. and Coalition forces, Department of State personnel, and repatriated U.S. citizens, LRMC is assisting with the evacuation efforts by providing medical screenings and care to evacuees upon arrival to Ramstein Air Base. LRMC was recently verified as a Level II Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons, the only Level II trauma center overseas.
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