446th medical professionals return home from COVID-19 relief efforts in NYC

  • Published
  • By Maj. Candice Allen
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“In the hospital's intensive care unit, whenever a patient was extubated, the hospital would play celebration music,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Pen Hou. “We knew then that a patient was likely to have recovered and could be turned to less acuity care. I heard more and more music every day, and one day, one of the ICUs had been closed because it was not needed. That was an unforgettable time.”

Hou, an Air Force Reserve family medicine doctor assigned to the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, was one of four 446th medical professionals who returned home May 31 – June 5, after supporting COVID-19 relief efforts in New York City.

The four-member Reservist medical team, to include a doctor, two nurses and a respiratory technician, worked in NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi between April and May.

Hou served on the internal medicine hospitalist team, where on average they saw 20 patients a day. Over the course of two months, Hou’s medical team treated 1,000 patients, mainly COVID-19-related. As a front-line worker, Hou said the COVID-19 response was a both a rewarding and challenging experience.

“Being part of the [relief] support of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City and for the country will be the pride and memory of my life, 100-percent positive,” Hou said. “This was a difficult and beautiful experience. Difficult because it was a bit of chaos at the beginning. It was great because once we arrived on site and got acquainted with our colleagues, got the support of the team of hospital physicians, and started routing exercises, it was even better.”

The 446th ASTS members were among the more than 1,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen mobilized in early April in support of relief efforts. According to 446 ASTS, the Reserve personnel were placed in 12 New York City hospitals that covered over 6,000 beds with a daily peak of 2,300 daily confirmed cases.

“Our Reservists who volunteered to serve are amazing,” said Col. Kristina Forbes, commander of 446th ASTS. “They mobilized with less than 48 hours’ notice and helped COVID-19 patients in a hard hit area.” 

Jacobi Hospital showed its support for all service members who assisted there with a sendoff ceremony held May 29. Christopher Mastromano, NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi CEO, personally thanked all the Reservists in a Facebook post.

“The sacrifices that all of you have made allow us to be here today and do what we do,” Mastromano said. “You gave up your families. You came running in a time of need. And thank you’s are not enough. You’re part of the Jacobi family. We are proud to have you. So on behalf of New York City, Health + Hospitals, and most importantly the Jacobi family, we thank you and we will fight with you any day.”