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Giving another breath of hope

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Seth Haddix
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE-- Two patients, each with metastatic lung cancer, were rushed to Keesler’s Operating Room, struggling to breathe with tumors constricting their airways.

Maj. Derrell Nettlow, 81st Healthcare Operations Squadron Pulmonary critical care physician, was called to perform the Air Force’s first airway stent procedure to give them the ability to breathe.

“I spent hours preparing for the operation,” said Nettlow. “I prepared the equipment and ran through the process in the operating room. I knew this was something I was capable of accomplishing.”

With help of the Pulmonary Critical Care Clinic, Nettlow was able to successfully burn the tumors and open their airways with a palliative airway stent, a tube placed into the throat that prevents it from closing.

“Nettlow’s advanced pulmonary skillset was critical for this procedure and the timing was perfect,” said Maj. John Untisz, 81st Healthcare Operations Squadron Pulmonary critical care physician. “He was not only able to give the patients the ability to breathe but also gifted them the best quality of life.”

After the intense procedure, Nettlow recognizes the positive impact of this situation, using this experience as an example of adapting to any life-saving situations for the medical field.

“The more complex procedures we offer and the more patients we see, the more prepared we are down range,” said Nettlow. “Developing procedural skillsets will prepare us for any operations overseas and advance our capabilities.”

Nettlow believes this procedure can set a precedent for new medical capabilities going forward.

“Airway stenting will become more common,” said Nettlow. “I see an increase in demand for this operation and we will be able to treat more patients. This opportunity can set a precedent for our future and reach new medical possibilities across the country.”