Not missing a beat: 15th MDG flies newborn for emergency heart surgery

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Kasi Chu
  • 15th Medical Group

Shortly after birth, 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, Lt. Col. Christopher Callaway, Pacific Air Force’s Strategy, Plans, and Programs force posture division chief.

Olivia required a specialty-trained surgeon located at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford in Palo Alto, California. Callaway reached out to the 15th Medical Group 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," said 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 creating 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 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 her surgery. It took Olivia just over a week to regain her ability to eat a healthy amount of food and all signs were pointing to a full recovery.

The Callaways returned home to find friends and family waiting for them by the flightline holding posters and cheering in support.

In total, the 15th MDG spent 10 hours in a one-week period arranging care with coordination from 20 personnel at six different locations across Hawaii and California to ensure Olivia received the care she needed.

“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,” said Callaway. “They took care of us in an amazing way, and it’s proof the Air Force will do anything for its members.”