By Audrey Jensen
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Anna Halula-Busby, 21st Medical Group nurse case manager, laid awake at night looking at a picture of the family who would never be the same if they didn’t get the help they needed.
For any hope of a better life, Halula-Busby knew her patient needed to have a specific surgery so he could comfortably use a prosthetic after his accident. If it didn’t happen, she knew life would be difficult for him.
As a nurse case manager, Halula-Busby’s job means helping patients who have the most complications, educating patients on their resources, getting the patient where they need to go and cutting through red tape to speed along the process, she said.
In this case, Halula-Busby’s patient fell from a significant height while working an outside job. The patient had multiple surgeries and a lot of complications, she said.
“He had a lot of injuries and he went to the hospital in a helicopter,” she said. “It should have been fatal. It would have been fatal for most people.”
After the Airman had the initial surgery to save his life, the next step was figuring out what the surgeon needed to do so he could comfortably use a prosthetic.
To have this more complicated surgery, Halula-Busby’s patient would have to travel out of state, where an experienced surgeon could perform the procedure.
“I needed to get him out of Colorado, because the next day they were going to do the wrong surgery,” Halula-Busby said.
His physician cleared him to be airlifted out of state for the surgery, but it took longer than Halula-Busby wanted for him to arrive.
“They said, ‘Yeah, it’s not going to happen today.’ I said, ‘OK, as long as it happens first thing tomorrow it’s good.’ They said it wasn’t going to happen again, and this was the next day. I said, ‘That’s not an option. He’s got to fly today,’” Halula-Busby said.
“I made so many phone calls that there were probably 13 people involved. I basically had to beg, I said ‘You’ve got to get this kid out of here, because if we wait one more day, they’re doing surgery first thing tomorrow.”
Eventually her patient was airlifted to get surgery outside of Colorado after two days. It was later than Halula-Busby hoped it would be, but a team of people made it possible, she said.
“I was working this case at 11 p.m.,” she said. “I stayed in contact with the patient’s mom, I slept with my phone on, I made sure everybody had each other’s phone numbers. I was so worried something would go wrong. So at 3 a.m., the mom called me back and said ‘OK we’re here.’ I didn’t sleep much that night at all.”
The surgery was successful, and now her patient is with his family while he continues to go to physical therapy.
For Halula-Busby, she doesn’t consider herself a hero, she sees what she did as part of her job. Per year, Halula-Busby and her team handle hundreds of medical cases, she said.
“Hopefully we get patients to the best place, that’s my goal,” said Halula-Busby.
She doesn’t see specific cases like this often, but Halula-Busby said she does get lot of her patients the help they need.
“That’s really what case management does,” Halula-Busby said. “That’s certainly not the first time we had an issue like that. That’s our job, and I’m a nurse case manager, which is similar, it’s just to make these things happen.”
To keep herself motivated in this case, Halula-Busby said she continued to think about her patient’s future.
“I just kept thinking about his family, that this surgery would affect his life forever, like whether maybe he could take a job or not. Maybe he would have given up,” she said. “It was so important — how could I just rest?”
Halula-Busby said she treats all of her cases the same.
“I think it’s important to give 100 percent all the time,” she said. “Sometimes people say that there are no emergencies in case management, but I disagree with that. Sometimes, it may not be an emergency, but you can make a life changing difference.”