Exclusive: Air Force flying missions into St. Croix to rescue critically ill patients

Some patients on the verge of life and death
Posted at 5:25 PM, Oct 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-02 23:21:24-04

Life in St. Croix following Hurricane Maria has been put on hold. People are barely holding on, some barely surviving.

There is no power on the island, minimal food, water, and fuel and medical supplies are critically low. The U.S. Air Force has been the only hope for people waiting to die in hospitals as the power flickers off and on.

“The thing we were worried about is if the generator stop running things are going to get worse,” Earl Shervington said. Shervington was one of the first passengers loaded onto C-130J on Friday to be medically evacuated to a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

We spoke to Shervington somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean en route to the U.S. This was his reaction when we asked him how he felt seeing the Air Force coming to evacuate him.

“It’s like a new feeling came over me I see hope, I see hope” Shervington said.  

Hope was in short supply up until then.

“I feel good I feel like a brand new solider I’m surviving,” Shervington said. “It’s good when people come together and it’s a shame we have to have devastation for people to come together to know we are all one human being.”

Air Force Reserves answered the call to fly these humanitarian missions. Nearly the entire crew flying into St. Croix were reserve soldiers from Florida.

“I leave my family, yep, at the drop of a dime,” Captain Keri Lord-Morales said. Lord-Morales is a flight nurse and heading up this mission to St. Croix out of MacDill Air Force Base.  

“Once we go up to altitude we are faced with a lot more difficulties treating our patients because they are stressed with the flight vibration on the aircraft can intensify their pain,” Lord-Morales said. “A lot of the patients that we are dealing with need dialysis which is a life saving intervention for them and they can’t get it because they don’t have any decent power.”

Members of the 815th Airlift Squadron, known as the Flying Jennies, crewed the plane. Captain Matthew Rounds said maneuvering the plane into Henry E. Rohlsen International Airpot with no ground support is “definitely interesting.”

“There’s a lot of military aircraft plus a lot of civilian aircraft going in there to help get people out of there,” Captain Matthew Rounds said. “It’s common in Afghanistan there are pockets of no radar coverage over there still, and so we fly, but it’s not as busy as this right now… it definitely makes it difficult for us.”

MacDill said they have rescued nearly 600 people from the U.S. Virgin Islands and patients from Puerto Rico that were able to catch a plane to St. Croix. Despite the missions in and out dropping supplies and getting out critically ill patients, some residents feel forgotten.

“When it comes to St Croix a lot of times we are forgotten,” Carolina DeJesus said. “I just hope we get some kind of attention.”

DeJesus said authorities on the island told her she might not get power until Christmas or later.

“I can’t survive that long without lights without power and long lines, I am tired of lines,” DeJesus said.  “Day to day life is not normal anymore. Everything has changed. We have to adapt to it which is long lines and right now we have no ice on the island.”

Members of the crew we talked to said they will be flying missions to save lives and drop supplies as long as the need is there.  

“This is what we train for,” Rounds said. “It’s a great sense of pride here.  We want to save lives.”