BRISTOL— Bristol Firefighter and Paramedic Josh Stahl returned home on Wednesday after spending 40 days helping victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Stahl, who serves on the National Disaster Medical System’s (NDMS) Health medical Task Force, was deployed to Florida Keys on Sept. 8. There, Stahl’s team, comprised of eight people, spent about two weeks running a mobile medical unit for the victims affected by Hurricane Irma.
Soon afterward, Stahl and his medical team found themselves in the path of another massive storm—Hurricane Maria. His team assisted by providing care in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, and helped evacuate dialysis patients from U.S. Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico.
The National Disaster of Medical System is comprised of about 5,000 medical and emergency management professionals, organized into more than 70 response teams. During the response to Hurricane Irma, NDMS personnel along with U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers provided care to more than 2,000 people affected by the storm, according to a NDMS news release.
“Hurricane Irma put people’s health and lives in jeopardy, and NDMS members are answering the call of duty to help residents affected by the disaster,” said NDMS’ Acting Director Ron Miller said in a statement. “When a state requests our assistance, we will be there to serve until NDMS services are no longer needed.”
Stahl, who’s worked for the Bristol Fire Department for a year-and-a-half, said this was his first time being deployed to assist victims of natural disasters. He said the most rewarding part about the trip was being able to interact and help as many victims as he could.
“The victims were so humble and grateful, despite how devastated they were,” he said. “When I was called down last month, I was eager to help and do my best.”
Now back in Bristol, Stahl described his journey as life-changing and eye-opening, adding that he was pleased to work with a team who shared a common goal, to help humanity.
“To witness all the devastation and suffering that took place there isn’t something we’re subjected to everyday around here, and it’s definitely given me a different outlook on life,” he said.
The National Disaster Medical System is a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to HHS, the teams respond to natural and manmade disasters and terrorist attacks, but also are deployed during "large-scale national security events" such as a presidential inauguration.