AzHOSA Speaker Has Seen the Worst of War

October 20, 2010 / by / 5 Comments

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

The images of war made a profound impression Wednesday as Deborah Lehker spoke to the GCU chapter of AzHOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) in the North Gym.

Lehker, a lieutenant colonel select in the U.S. Air Force reserve, has served tours of duty in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan and is part of the Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT). As a nurse specializing in wound care, she has treated the worst casualties — and at 30,000 feet.

A slide show accompanying her talk pulled no punches. Included were photos of soldiers who had been severely burned, critically injured by shrapnel and worse.

“These photos are very graphic and very real,” Lehker said, pausing occasionally to compose herself.

By its very nature, in-flight trauma care can take stress to a different level.

“We’re flying in dust storms and while being shot at,” she said. “When you go on five missions in four days, you sleep when you can.

“Do you put yourself and your life in danger? Absolutely. You have to trust in your faith. We lose soldiers over there, but they are not forgotten.”

Lehker, the mother of GCU health sciences student Ashley Sparks, returned from a seven-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in April. She is the chief nurse for the 752nd Medical Squadron based out of March Air Reserve Base in California.

She also is an intensive-care nurse at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, where she has worked for nearly 17 years. In 2007, she received the Nurses Health Care Hero Award from the Phoenix Business Journal and Military Nurse of the Year from the March of Dimes.

She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, and the training for her military assignment has been extensive.

“You really need to have your skills down,” Lehker said of being part of CCATT. “There is advanced training like you wouldn’t believe. The physicians are good, but they’re looking at the patient’s major functions and they miss things sometimes.”

The federal government even publishes a book, “Emergency War Surgery,” to assist doctors and nurses working in such extreme conditions.

“Sometimes we can’t save their limbs, and that’s hard, because we really try,” Lehker said, choking up briefly.

It’s unconventional work, to be sure, and rewarding in an unconventional way.

“What gets most of us through it,” she said, “is the passion. It’s knowing you’ve made a difference.”

Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].

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5 Responses
  1. judy gates

    So inspiring and a great example of compassion! Thank you LtCol Deb!!

    Oct.22.2010 at 3:50 pm
  2. Sharla Reed

    Deb is my cousin and our whole family is so proud of her. I prayed everyday for her safety and health. Once again GREAT JOB Little cousin. Sharla

    Oct.22.2010 at 4:13 pm
  3. belinda Granucci

    lucy this is your older sister. congradulations. love you oodles.

    Oct.23.2010 at 8:24 am
  4. Colleen Hallberg

    On behalf of the Nursing Division at Banner Good Samaritan I salute Deb for her bravery, professionalism and expertise as she moves so smoothly between civilian and military nursing roles. Deb is highly respected at Banner Good Sam and we are so very proud of her accomplishments! Colleen Hallberg, Chief Nursing Officer

    Oct.24.2010 at 9:29 pm
  5. Sandy McClaren

    Deb, I am so thankful to have you as a friend. I am very proud of you for your military career and your nursing career. You are all that is good in America.

    God bless, Sandy McClaren

    Jan.06.2011 at 9:51 pm
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