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Military flight nurse stands ready for duty

By Staff
READY WHEN CALLED n Registered emergency room nurse Barry Pettit usually works with victims of car crashes or helps doctors cast a child's broken leg after a bike wreck. But as rumbles of potential violence began anew Friday in the Middle East, Pettit is sitting on ready in case his skills as a military flight nurse are needed again. Photo by Sharon White/The Meridian Star.
By Sharon White/The Meridian Star
Feb. 17, 2001
October 12, 2000 seemed to be shaping up as a normal day for Barry Pettit.
The registered nurse had just completed three grueling days in the emergency room at Rush Foundation Hospital and was looking forward to four days off.
But later that day, the Air National Guard flight nurse realized his plans for relaxing would be anything but restful.
That morning, national news described the horrifying attack by terrorists on the USS Cole an American warship refueling in the port of Aden in Yemen.
Only hours after the attack, Pettit was called to Jackson for a "special mission."
As it turned out, he was to help bring the critically wounded sailors back to the States.
With Friday's U.S. air strikes on Iraq, Pettit could again be called into action in a moment's notice.
Although he wasn't certain in October what his "special mission" was all about, in his heart he felt he knew where he was headed.
Attached to a C-141 Transport aircraft, Pettit's unit makes monthly flights to both Germany and Puerto Rico to transport military patients back to the States.
Pettit's instincts were correct.
A few hours later, he and the beefed-up crew of four flight nurses and four medical technicians realized the task at hand.
The unit typically provides much of the same care inflight in such cases as a regular hospital: monitoring conditions, continuing medications and dealing with any medical crisis that might arrive. As might be expected, Pettit said most of the injuries were fractures and lacerations, involving a great deal of post-operative pain.
In addition to their medical duties, the medical crew also felt impressed to render whatever emotional comfort they could, especially to the families. He was surprised about their reaction to the tragedy.
In retrospect, Pettit said the experience turned out to be more like a routine day than he first expected.
Sharon White is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at swhite@themeridianstar.com.

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