At 4 pm on Dec. 2, Monica Staples, RN, an MGH Emergency Department nurse and clinical nurse specialist in the Center for Disaster Medicine, received a text message: The National Disaster Medical System’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) was deploying.

The next morning the regional team – including Staples and fellow MGHers Lisa Anahory, RN, Emergency Department; paramedic David Mather, MGH Center for Disaster Medicine; Michael Storey, CRNA, North Shore Medical Center; and Jarone Lee, MD, Blake 12 ICU – boarded a plane headed for the nation’s capital. There they would spend the next four days providing medical support to the thousands of people who congregated to pay their respects to former President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94.

“There was a team from Texas and our team from New England who were called upon, which was a nice little nod to honor President Bush and the areas where he lived,” Staples said. “It was very special to be a part of.”

Nationwide there are more than 6,000 members of the National Disaster Medical System, organized into 70 response teams. They consist of physicians, nurses, paramedics, fatality management professionals, and experienced command and control staff. The group provides medical care during emergencies and works behind-the-scenes at some of the nation’s biggest events – such as Bush’s state funeral – which can overwhelm local and state resources.

“For this event, we are there to help in any way we can,” Staples said. “We provide basic first aid to advanced medical support – everything from minor cuts to monitoring for hypothermia, because this event was 24 hours a day and it was very cold.”

The former president’s body lay in state in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol from Dec. 3 through Dec. 5, and was followed by a public funeral service at Washington National Cathedral.
In Houston, a private funeral service was held Dec. 6 before Bush was laid to rest in College Station.

Read more articles from the 12/14/18 Hotline issue.