Medical Caregivers Support Troop Readiness

179th Airlift Wing
Story by Senior Airman Christi Richter

Date: 02.10.2019
Posted: 02.10.2019 15:38
News ID: 310207
Medical Caregivers Support Troop Readiness

My face was bright red, I could feel it getting redder by the second. I was hot, I was cold, the room felt like it was caving in, and little drops of sweat were beading down my uniform. I sat in the DFAC, fanning myself off, but to no avail. I stood up and tried to verbalize what was wrong but physically could not get the words out. My supervisor rushed me outside, which is when the aggressive vomiting began and it became clear I needed help.

She half led, half dragged me to medical, and with one look at me, Captain Rachael Wheeler, rushed to my side with water and a trash can. Wheeler helped me for an hour, kept me cool, and eventually made the decision to send me to the emergency room.

Capt. Wheeler is a Clinical Nurse Practitioner for the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield, Ohio. She works to support the Airmen of the 179th Airlift Wing.

“As a nurse practitioner, I work to keep up the readiness of our members,” said Wheeler. “We see them for PHAQ’s, deployment and pre-deployment, and ongoing medical issues.”

Wheeler enlisted in the Air National Guard in a maintenance position while she went through nursing school at The Ohio State University. After getting her degree, she transitioned into a medical position.

She says that helping members is what keeps her in the military.

“Serving as a medical professional and a provider, we really get to see members away from their coworkers,” said Wheeler. “We see them at their most vulnerable moments. They get to relax and let go of what’s bothering them, and then they can walk out and go right back to where they were but feeling better.

Vulnerable was the perfect word for my experience in medical that day. As soon as I got to Wheeler’s office, I started crying uncontrollably. I had been dealing with some pretty serious medical issues around the time of the incident, and was embarrassed to have fallen out so publically. Wheeler talked to me and calmed me down, and helped me to face the fact that being sick was becoming an overwhelming source of stress in my life. She worked with my supervisor to talk me through my situation and to put things back into perspective.

Wheeler’s position allows her to be more than just a caregiver in the strict medical sense. Not only does she provide physical care, she gets to know members on a very personal level. She enjoys helping them to get through the hard times, as well as the angst that comes along with being sick.

“I like getting to have those moments of one-on-one conversations with our members,” said Wheeler. “To get them through a tough moment in their day, week, or dill weekend and letting them know that the military is there for them and supporting them.”

While helping people is rewarding there are aspects of working in the medical field that are also incredibly taxing.

“The hardest part is kind of dealing with patients that are not only having medical challenges, but life challenges as the same time,” said Wheeler. “Being in the military, there’s only so much we can do for them because they are being treated on the civilian side. So just being there to kind of send them back out and only being able to have a conversation with them when they have multiple things going on is hard.”

Wheeler’s Father was a nurse, and she always knew she wanted to follow in his footsteps. She wanted to work in the medical field, and above all, she wanted to help people. Although this can be challenging, the follow-up and personal relationships she forms with patients makes her position more than rewarding.

“I love being around for the outcomes and getting to see the resolutions of problems, even if there are bad moments between there and the good,” said Wheeler. “Most patients are pretty excited to tell you when things get better. You get a pretty good personal relationship with the ones that you see most frequently.”

My story ended with a diagnosis of heat exhaustion. After some fluids and anti-nausea pills, and I was back on my feet. After my talk with Wheeler, I was in a much better mindset. Members like Capt. Wheeler help troops like me to stay ready and active, and to get over any bumps in the road that their medical status may offer. Her kind words and professional skills help Airmen to stay fit, able, and ready to serve. Wheeler, along with other medical personnel, act as caregivers to provide much-needed support to members of the 179th Airlift Wing.