| 450th Civil Affairs Battalion | Oct. 14, 2020
Capt. Sarah E. Ashley supports Nairobi, Kenya during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by U.S. ARMY)
Capt. Sarah E. Ashley has been in Nairobi, Kenya since January 2020. She arrived to serve as faculty for a new residency program training as an emergency specialist doctor. Her plans fell thru due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she immediately changed direction to support the COVID-19 response in Nairobi.
Capt. Ashley, who is working in her civilian occupation overseas, has remained an active member of the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne). “My leadership has been incredibly supportive. I have been able to train with the unit remotely and attend Virtual Battle Assemblies from Kenya. I am proud to be part of Civil Affairs and the Army Reserve,” said Ashley
Ashley was introduced to the EMS community in Kenya in 2012 and wanted to return ever since. “There is an amazing team of medics, nurses, clinical officers, and doctors in Kenya promoting emergency care. They are a gritty, funny, passionate, committed group,” Said Ashley. “I have been humbled by them and want them to be successful. I love Emergency Medicine and am excited to see it flourish in a new place. It feels like a chance to be where history is happening.”
In Nairobi, she anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic would be overwhelming, but it turned out differently than what she expected. In reality, there was already a crisis in Kenya before the new coronavirus spread throughout the world. “Kenyans were already losing far too many people to emergencies like infections, heart attacks, car accidents, or heavy bleeding, without access to timely and effective treatment,” said Ashley. In many hospitals, doctors had to choose between multiple patients and only one breathing machine.
Other hospitals do not have oxygen, let alone a breathing machine. COVID-19 did not change that. “The biggest challenge has not been the number of coronavirus cases, but everything else the pandemic brought with it - fear, logistical challenges, economic strain, politics, shutdowns, inertia,” Ashley stated. The many barriers to adequate healthcare have made delivering emergency care far more complicated than it already was before COVID-19. Ashley emphasized that she hopes this crisis highlights emergency workers and inspires leaders to invest in emergency care systems going forward.
Although Ashley enjoys her civilian career, she continues to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve because Just like the medics that inspired her to go to Kenya, “U.S. Army soldiers are gritty, funny, and dedicated to noble values. They keep me humble and teach me a lot about leadership and responsibility.” Said Ashley. “At a time when our country feels divided by politics and distorted by different narratives, being part of the Army feels like having roots in the ground. It is a constant reminder of the core values we share as Americans and what our nation represents.”