F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
“We got a call to our clinic from a concerned mother who knew at this point she was positive for COVID-19,” said Major Andrew Ellis, Chief of Dental Services at the 90th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron. “Typically when someone tests positive they’re supposed to isolate with their family members but she called the clinic feeling as if she had nowhere else to turn.”
Ellis describes an incident that occured where a young girl was distressed and could not be seen off base due to being in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. With nowhere else to turn, the girl’s mother reached out and sought help at the base dental clinic.
“The daughter had braces and a wire ended up coming loose from where it should be and was poking her in the cheek,” said Ellis. “So, ultimately, using our field readiness capabilities we were able to provide a treatment arena.”
Despite the girl potentially carrying COVID-19, Ellis didn’t hesitate to serve and provide treatment for the girl in pain.
“It didn’t put the base facility or the rest of the population at risk and we were able to head out there in appropriate [personal protective equipment] and had everything we needed,” said Ellis, emphasizing the safety of others. “The daughter wasn’t in the chair for more than five minutes and it was very quick and efficient and we were able to adhere to all of our standard COVID prevention safety procedures to take care of all the instruments and to disinfect the treatment area.”
Ellis wasn’t alone for the treatment of the young girl as Staff Sgt. Jessica Flick, an Oral Prophylaxis Assistant at the 90 OMRS was right beside him helping and ensuring everything ran smoothly.
“We didn’t hesitate. We were told there was a patient that needed to be treated and had to be examined under special circumstances,” said Flick. “It’s still a patient that needed our care, so we treated them like any other patient we would normally have.”
The two embodied service before self while showing compassion but no fear to the distressed girl.
“I think it really is just doing our job in regards to the idea that the call to serve within the military context is more involved than the civilian side,” said Ellis. “We’re always mission ready and ready to do our job in any environment, including a pandemic environment. We have the appropriate training and capabilities.”
To them it didn’t seem like they were doing anything more than just their job, but it could be argued that they displayed significant bravery in putting aside a fear of contracting a virus during a pandemic to help a troubled person.
“I don’t think either of us were doing anything heroic and I think sometimes what gets lost in the shuffle of the routine is that many don’t really think of the readiness impact that dentistry has,” said Ellis. “Dentistry is one of the most highly utilized deployed services because things go wrong.”
According to Ellis, half of all Department of Defense (DoD) military recruits are in Dental Readiness Class 3 and 96% require dental care.
“With so much emphasis on mission readiness, Staff Sgt. Flick and I were able to very quickly and efficiently provide a platform for care that was safe and effective,” said Ellis. “We’re fortunate to be able to work at the capacity that we are.”