Regional Manager of Patient Care Services, Air Evac Lifeteam (A Global Medical Response Solution)
Robert Galvin is familiar with deployments. He served his country as a Communications Chief in the United States Army from 1986-1990. His job was to set up communications and towers as part of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) and wait for the rest of the deployment to arrive and settle in. So being a part of the AMR team that deployed to New York City during the height of the COVID-19 crisis was right up his alley.
“My military experience was critical for this deployment,” he said.
Galvin served as a medical officer for the more than 1600 caregivers who also deployed to help New York City first responders when COVID-19 struck, and 911 call volume tripled. He woke up each morning in time to be at the Forward Operating Base at the Bronx Zoo by 6 a.m.
“As people got off the shuttles, I took initial temperatures,” he said. “I also saw them when they got off their shift, all the way up to 8 p.m. That was a chance for me to provide them a little normalcy – have a little conversation and gauge how they’re doing. I made sure they were hydrating, eating and sleeping.”
Caring for the caregiver is a passion for Galvin.
“When I got out of the military, I struggled to get reacclimated to life, and I was homeless for three years,” he said. “I found EMS and began that in 1996. I worked for Bowling Green (Kentucky) EMS for seven years on the ground and started flying with Air Evac Lifeteam in 2002.”
Galvin has served on the company’s Peer Support Team for several years and works to ensure caregivers have the opportunity to work through a tough call whenever they need to do so.
“When people started coming into medical, often times you could tell they were in crisis,” he said. “I was there to interact, and I did that with 18 individuals…helping them to work through their individual situations. It was unbelievable. I was meant to be there. I had faced some of the same things they were facing. We made such an impact that we will now be on every deployment. We’ll be set up on site at every FOB the first day. While I was there, I saw about 178 patients (caregivers), and out of those, we basically kept 70 percent of the people there. We gave them fluid and medication and a listening ear, and they were able to go back to work the next day. If we weren’t there, they would have been demobilized.”
Galvin said it’s difficult to deploy to a new area.
“The families back home are seeing everything on the news, and they want you back home,” he said. “You’re pulled between serving the patients, serving with your colleagues, but feeling guilty as a spouse or parent. You wanted to finish the mission.”
He was beyond exhausted at the end of each day, but Galvin needed to be there. Returning home proved to be more difficult than he anticipated. Galvin was deployed for a month, and though he knew what to expect physically, mentally and emotionally, it still hit him like a ton of bricks.
“Everything was gone…the routine, the purpose,” he said. “I was exhausted physically and mentally, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. My family wanted to engage but I didn’t know how to do that. After about 14 days I was about 90 percent. It’s no wonder the suicide rate is so high with veterans. You lose your purpose. It was the same as when I got out of the Army the first time. You lose the comradery. I was working really hard to learn from what I went through so I could help others after they returned. I learned so much, and hopefully I’ll be able to share that with everyone else and help out. I knew it was coming…and I’m not sure that’s good or bad. I did everything I could so that it wouldn’t affect me, but it did. It was real.”
Looking back now, Galvin said all the challenges, hardships and struggles he has faced over the years have prepared him to do what he needs to do now.
“That’s what I loved about the deployment and about the military,” he said. “Everyone comes together in the field. Titles aren’t important. We all do what needs to be done.”