US Navy details assistance to IU Health Methodist Hospital in COVID surge

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two members of the Navy team deployed to an Indianapolis hospital say they’re glad they’ve been able to relieve the staff there.

Lt. Cmdr. Donovan Mabe, a pulmonary and critical care doctor, and Lt. j.g. Lindsey Rude, an administrative officer, are part of the 20-person U.S. Navy team that deployed to IU Health Methodist Hospital in late December. It’s the second time either of them have deployed to an American hospital since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Mabe says he works in the hospital’s critical care unit. Although he is not exclusively assigned to COVID-19 cases, he says most of the patients under his care are diagnosed with the disease. He said has has gotten to know the patients individually.

“Each one is unique,” he said. “I’ve got to know some great people as patients and then just meeting with their families and talking with their families.”

Rude serves as the liason between hospital staff and the Navy personnel. She says she helps determine the best use for the Navy team each day and covers any reports that need to be written. She said the hospital staff have been a pleasure to work with.

“Any questions we have, they answer. If there’s anything we need, they’re more than willing to help us in every way possible,” she said. “We can definitely feel how appreciative they are of us being here to assist.”

Rude has been in the Navy for 9 years and Mabe has served for 10. Both say when they first took their oaths, they never could have imagined doing a deployment on U.S. soil. Mabe deployed to Kandahar in Afghanistan in 2019. He says that environment was far more austere than here in Indianapolis but he also had much more time to prepare — roughly three months versus one week’s notice.

The relief has been immediate for hospital staff. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Luetkemeyer says when the hospital asked for extra help, it was already using every available space and had rescheduled most elective surgeries. He says a six-person National Guard team was already at the hospital but staff needed more medical personnel. Traveling civilian doctors have become harder to find, so the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to send an active-duty military medical team. Luetkemeyer says the Navy personnel have been able to pick up extra shifts, helping to conserve the hospital’s civilian staff.

“The amount of expertise, the quality of these individuals is simply outstanding, and so that’s been a huge lift to our team members,” he said.

Rude and Mabe say they and their team will be at Methodist for at least another month. They said they’re prepared to stay longer if needed.