ASU honors unsung heroes providing medical care for military

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Many may be unaware that NationalNurse Anesthetists Week wrapped up Saturday. The week commemorates all thepeople that almost everyone else wants there during surgery, and their skillsare highly coveted in war zones.

"They are very highly compensated people in their privatelives," Dr. Cassandra Massey said about Certified Registered NurseAnesthetists, or CRNAs. "To lay that to the side, to disrupt their life to goout and to do what this country asked of them, that's what they do."

Massey teaches CRNA students at Arkansas State University,the only school in the state to offer an anesthesia program. On Saturdayafternoon, the Arkansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists convened on campus tohonor Lt. Col. Benjamin Campbell. Campbell has been deployed overseas multipletimes, and he is one of many in his profession caring for those fighting on thefrontlines.

"It's like we're taking care of the heroes. We're just thereto do our part for them," Campbell said shortly after accepting a plaque at areception at the Reynolds Building.

Campbell is a CRNA and has spent 26 years in the military.Nurse anesthetists and the military have been closely linked, as CRNAs haveprovided most anesthesia care since World War One.

"It's just kind of the secret behind the mask. Nobody reallyknows who you are," Campbell noted. "It's kind of nice to get recognized everyonce in a while, but we do it for the satisfaction of the job, not therecognition."

He was most recently deployed to Afghanistan, his fifth tripabroad. His wife, also a CRNA, has been called on four deployments, but she hasnever gone to Iraq or Afghanistan. Their experiences are similar to other CRNAsthat have entered the military, many facing deployments almost every 18months.

"You have a whole dynamic of people that that person you'reresponsible for," Dr. Massey added, "and you're trying your best to make sureyou get that father, mother, sister, brother home."

Massey says her students will become highly skilled upongraduation with many acquiring jobs locally. She hopes, however, that veteranslike Jim Hunn will influence them to think about giving back to their country.

"It was the most gratifying 25-plus years of my life," Hunnsaid, who is now a retired colonel and CRNA.

He mainly taught anesthesia to Army cadets, serving inGermany, Korea and Vietnam. He says it was privilege to take care of thesoldiers.

"Yes, we saw a lot of things that we would like to forget,"Hunn said, adding: "but a lot of things we're proud of too."

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