Fleet Surgical Team Saves Life Aboard USS Somerset

Cmdr. Jeffrey Chao, the Littoral Combat Group One (LCG-1) surgeon, second from left, performs an emergency appendectomy as other medical team members assist aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) assist Nov. 27, 2018, while underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo/Andrew Brame)
Cmdr. Jeffrey Chao, the Littoral Combat Group One (LCG-1) surgeon, second from left, performs an emergency appendectomy as other medical team members assist aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) assist Nov. 27, 2018, while underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo/Andrew Brame)

PACFIC OCEAN -- Electrician's Mate Fireman Samuel Guidroz was more than 4,500 miles away from home when he was awakened by a sharp pain in his abdomen on the morning of Nov. 27, 2018.

The 20-year-old sailor, assigned to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), tried to treat the day like any other day spent underway in the Pacific Ocean. But the discomfort in his stomach soon drove him to the ship's medical bay.

"I had a nauseating feeling in my lower abdomen," said Guidroz, from his bed in the ship's recovery ward. "They ran some x-rays and a few additional tests."

"Fireman Guidroz came to us, and we were able to determine he had acute appendicitis," said Cmdr. Jeffery Chao, the surgeon for Littoral Combat Group One (LCG-1).

Chao said it was fortunate that the fleet surgical team happened to be there on the Somerset to augment the ship's capabilities. The fleet surgical team is attached to Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3, which is currently embarked on USS Somerset as part of LCG-1. If they had not been there, surgery aboard USS Somerset would not have been an option.

But not everything was working in Guidroz's favor.

"The sea state at the time was a bit rough, so it made me nervous," Guidroz said. "The doctors eased my mind though, assuring me it was the right thing to do."

The LCG-1 fleet surgical team and the Sailors aboard USS Somerset acted immediately. The officer of the deck turned the ship to the steadiest course available. The maneuver significantly lessened the ship's motion in the water, allowing the medical personnel to do their work with precision. Then they prepared for surgery.

When Guidroz awoke, he felt groggy but relieved.

"Everything went great. Just like it would have if I had been back at a regular hospital," Guidroz said.

Chao says he expects Guidroz to make a full recovery in the next few days.

"This was a great learning experience to know the medical capabilities out here are far greater than my initial expectations," Guidroz said. "It feels good knowing and having that assurance that something like this can be taken care of out here at sea. I can't thank the medical team enough for what they did."

Since the surgery, Guidroz has been in contact with his family at their home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"They were happy this was able to be done here on the ship, and even a bit surprised," Guidroz said. "Being away from them was different at first, but I've made some new friends out here. And it's important, I think, having people close to you when you're away from home."

USS Somerset is a San Antonio-class amphibious transport docking ship, based out of San Diego. LCG-1 is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of the Enduring Promise Initiative to reaffirm U.S. Southern Command's longstanding commitment to the nations of the Western Hemisphere.

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