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Joint medical effort flies infant to Calif. for emergency surgery

Group of soldiers, civilians in masks Representatives from the 15th Medical Group come together after the successful medical transport of a newborn child from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to California. The 15th MDG secured medical transportation for the newborn after it was discovered she had a rare heart condition that required specialized pediatric surgery not available in Hawaii. (Courtesy Photo)

Shortly after birth on the island of Oahu, Olivia Callaway was immediately rushed to Kapi’oplani Medical Center for Women and Children’s newborn intensive care unit and diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening heart condition.

Olivia had total anomalous pulmonary venous return, a birth defect which keeps oxygenated blood from returning to the left atrium and instead sends it to the right.

“It was scary to watch them put IVs and oxygen tubes into her,” said Olivia’s father, Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Callaway, who is stationed in Hawaii with Pacific Air Force.

Olivia's condition required a specialty-trained surgeon located at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford in Palo Alto, California – half an ocean away. Callaway reached out to the 15th Medical Group stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii to see what steps were needed to get his daughter to California.

Once learning about Olivia’s situation, the 15th MDG Management and En-Route Patient Staging teams jumped into action. The teams collaborated with Tripler Army Medical Center newborn specialists and transportation partners.

"We coordinated seamlessly with our Army partners," explained Air Force Maj. Shelly Shildt, 15th MDG ERPS flight commander. "The Air Force arranged the plane and the Army provided the newborn medical specialists to accompany the patient on the plane. This is exactly the type of joint medical effort our senior leaders envision."

The 15th MDG took care of everything for the Callaway family, including drafting orders, reserving hotel rooms, and secured them a spot aboard a special medical flight out of JBPHH to California.

“Seeing this little girl nestled in her incubator awaiting transportation reminded us of our ‘why’,” said Air Force Maj. Angie Cacacho, 15th MDG health care integrator and case manager. “We were able to follow the baby's mainland care and her family periodically shared pictures with us.”

A few days later, Olivia had a successful surgery. It took Olivia just over a week to regain her ability to eat a healthy amount of food and start on her recovery. The Callaways then made the 2,400-mile flight home to find friends and family cheering in support along the flightline.

“When you think about something so intense happening, you think the whole process is going to be difficult to fix it, but the 15th Medical Group made it so easy for us,” expounded Callaway. “They took care of us in an amazing way, and it’s proof the Air Force will do anything for its members.”

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