• Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Courtney Richardson
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

For a lot of Airmen, they feel like their careers become reinvigorated after they return from a deployment. For one Reserve Citizen Airman in the 944th Fighter Wing, her career jumpstarted with a short-notice deployment.

1st Lt. Paris Mandy, 944th Medical Squadron nurse, volunteered to the presidential call for health care professionals from the U.S. Reserves to support the COVID-19 efforts in New York City.

“I gave birth to my first child in early January and while I was on maternity leave I received an email survey asking if I would be willing to volunteer if asked,” said Mandy. “After talking to my husband we were both on the same page that there would be no way that I could turn that down.”

When she clicked the “yes” block, Mandy thought the likelihood of her going was low but as time went on, she realized that the virus was getting out of control and spreading quickly.

“Given the choice, I’d rather be away from home,” said Mandy. “I didn’t want to come home every day scared that I would be passing [the virus] to my husband and new baby.”

After being notified that she was on the green list to go, Mandy got her thoughts and affairs in order. No matter how much she prepared herself, she was not ready for the reality of the viral hotspot.

Mandy remembered watching the news coverage of the crisis in New York City and recalled the lack of Personal Protection Equipment, footage of dead bodies being piled up, and the city in disarray.

“Normally when you think of New York City, you think bustling streets, people everywhere, and lights but after the news coverage I thought I’d see lots of sick people everywhere so it shocked me the most seeing it so bare,” she said. “However, in the hospital it was ‘COVID-land’ and all you see are really critically sick patients either on or waiting for ventilators.”

That wasn’t the only surprise that Mandy faced. Upon arriving she was shocked at the assignment she was given.

“In my civilian job I work in the E.R. and in the military I am a nurse, but when I got to the hospital I was told I was going to be working in the Intensive Care Unit,” said Mandy. “In the E.R. we triage, stabilize, and move patients to their final destination for continuing care. The ICU was all new to me.”

Even though she was nervous about her new tasking, Mandy realized the true meaning of being a wingman.

“Lt. Mandy works in a very busy emergency room that can see over 600 patients in a 24 hour period in her civilian job,” said Capt. Cecilia Mora-Fernau, 944th Medical Squadron critical care nurse. “She knows how to deal with sick patients, how to triage, and how to perform proper resuscitation to dying patients. Usually when a patient is critically ill and needs follow up care she hands them off to the ICU.”

Mora-Fernau is a critical care nurse in her civilian job and did nightshift ICU nursing for eight years. Although this was her first deployment as well, Fernau was in the best positon to give Mandy advice as she was also working ICU nightshift at a different hospital. They met up in the hotel the first night, and in an effort to set their internal clocks to the appropriate sleep schedule they discussed what her duties would be.

“Night ICU nurses are expected to decrease drips, fix ventilator settings by gathering recent blood gases, perform required labs, transfuse blood as needed, complete tests such as MRIs, CT scans, and truly set day shift up for success,” said Mora-Fernau. “She was ready to tackle a different unit that was completely outside her comfort zone.”

Mandy recognized the value of being a Reserve Citizen Airman.

“As reservists, we are so special because we have double duty lives,” said Mandy. “On the one hand I am an Airman and the other I have this professional experience that I can draw from to do my military job. Not to mention we all bring something to the table to help one another.”

The wingman concept really sunk in for Mandy when she was tossed into a new job during a pandemic where people were dying every day.

“We are bonded now on a deeper level and our relationships are stronger than they ever were,” said Mandy. “We needed each other for physical, mental, and emotional health. Immediately after a hard day I noticed that my wingmen became my sanctuary and kept me grounded.”

Mora-Fernau explained how this deployment only encouraged her to seek out more opportunities. She loved that the Air Force has given her the chance to use her strengths to help others, patients and co-worker alike. Mandy expressed the same sentiments about serving.

“It was a great experience, definitely challenging but a great opportunity to learn about our role as service members in the Air Force,” said Mandy. “It’s about taking care of others, adapting, relying on your training, and trusting your team to support you.”