Army Doctor serves in NYC

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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In the new normal of COVID-19 that many of us are living, heroes and those we look up to are now individuals who are on the front lines caring for patients fighting the novel virus.

Linda Slayton Jackson is one of those heroes caring for COVID-19 patients.

Army Colonel Jackson, who has served for the past 19 years, was deployed to the Javits Convention Center in New York City, where she is serving as chief medical officer.

With the Army’s help, the Javits Convention Center was transformed into a temporary field hospital.

Before going to New York, Jackson was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she serves as a pediatrician at Womack Army Medical Center.

Jackson, a graduate of Prince Edward Academy, has been working at the Javits Center since it opened March 30.

According to Jackson, the Javits Center has been transformed into a 500-bed hospital unit.

Jackson says that of the 500 beds, 452 are intermediate care ward beds (meaning medical/surgical beds), and 48 are intensive care unit beds.

The center has the capacity to expand to 2,500 beds, but currently, they have not had to meet that need.

“The New York City Hospitals are the front lines,” Jackson said. “We were sent to lessen the burden on the city hospital system by taking the recovering patients that still require hospitalization. Our ICU is to stabilize patients that decompensate in our intermediate care ward beds.”

According to Jackson, soldiers working the Javits Center are taking in convalescing COVID patients, which usually are on the road to recovery and still require supplemental oxygen.

“Some of these patients may decompensate while on the floor, meaning their respiratory status worsens, and we can manage them in the ICU and transfer back to NY city hospital once stabilized if needed,” Jackson added.

According to Jackson, when the center first opened, it was originally planned to be a non-COVID facility, but beds that had been set up were being underutilized.

“It turned out that non-COVID beds were not what the city hospitals needed,” Jackson said. “They needed a facility to care for COVID patients and the Department of Defense had to get approval for soldiers to care for COVID patients due to the higher risk and concern for us getting sick when we still have the mission of being ready to deploy for war or other conflicts.”

Jackson said approval occurred, and the center was switched to a COVID facility April 2.

“Patient census increased with this change,” Jackson said.

On April 8, Jackson began caring for patients on the COVID intermediate care ward, as more physicians were needed for patient care due to increased patients.

“The patients are mostly very appreciative of the care we are providing,” she said. “We do wear appropriate protective equipment and force health protection is a top priority.”

One patient who wished to remain anonymous who was treated at the Javits Center said, “My doctors and nurses were caring and watchful. And, in a strange way, seeing that other New Yorkers were being treated in a hospital erected seemingly overnight gave me hope that COVID patients were being well taken care of.”

Jackson, who was previously deployed to Iraq, says this mission is different in that it is a medical mission and also a multi-agency mission.

“This is the first time I have ever worked with the United States Public Health Service, Health and Human Services, or the National Guard,” she said.

Jackson said even though she has anxiety about catching the virus each day the center is admitting and discharging patients, as a soldier she and her fellow comrades took an oath to protect the country.

“Right now, we are protecting our fellow citizens from a disease rather than a foreign power,” she said. “And we will continue until the mission is complete.”