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Naval aviator honored for work with Navy Wounded Warrior sailors

Published: Friday, May 16, 2014 11:39 a.m. CST

A regular, Friday morning quarters, May 7, turned into a rewarding, yet somber moment for staff members of Commander, Navy Region Midwest (CNRMW).

Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) – Safe Harbor representative of the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC), Lt. Michael A. Chalfant, was presented a spot Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medal.

Chalfant, a helicopter pilot, was inducted into the NWW – Safe Harbor program in 2013. The transition from pilot to medical has “been a challenging, yet rewarding experience because the program is sailor-focused.” It focuses on how sailors are treated, what options are best for them and their family situations.

His story took place when a terminally-ill sailor was transferred to Lovell FHCC in 2013.

“Unfortunately, we had a hospital corpsman who had been battling cancer for a year,” said Chalfant. “We sent him up to Milwaukee to receive chemotherapy and radiation. None of the treatment was working.”

As a last resort, it was determined that the sailor needed a bone marrow transplant. They sent him to Minneapolis for the treatment.

“We had to help him find a genetic match for a bone marrow transplant,” said Chalfant. “After numerous tests from multiple candidates, it was declared the sailor’s mother was a perfect match for the bone marrow transplant.”

The match for the treatment failed and the sailor became sicker.

“The sailor was given a timeline of two weeks to live after an unsuccessful treatment,” said Chalfant. “His only request was to go back home to be with his family, lie on the beach one more time and enjoy the sun. The sailors request was ultimately denied because it was determined the flight was “one of convenience and not for the care of the sailor.”

“We then turned to our Tricare representative,” explained Chalfant. “We found that there was a provision that we could transfer him for care because it was under a hospice care condition.”

Tricare paid for the sailor’s medical evacuation flight home to live out his final days.

“Unfortunately, the sailor died 12 hours after he arrived in Daytona Beach, Fla.,” said Chalfant.

His unrelenting persistence, dedication and care gave the sailor a chance to live out his final hours as he wanted.

The NWW – Safe Harbor program is “a program in which a wounded warrior can determine the best place to get care,” explained Chalfant.

Now, Chalfant has a case that is part of his command, CNRMW. He is working with NWW IC3 Angel Andrade who was transferred to Lovell FHCC from USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) to receive care for his recent cancer diagnosis.

His wife, YN2 Brittany Andrade, stationed at CNRMW, and his family is located nearby.

“I’ve been diagnosed with stage 2B testicular cancer,” said Andrade. “I was originally stationed on USS Bainbridge in Norfolk, Va. It was my first ship. I was only on it for six months. I liked my command and the people. I wasn’t ready to leave because it’s the start of my career.”

Andrade stated he first noticed signs of trouble when he fell into pain during watch.

“I just felt this terrible pain,” said Andrade. “I was standing watch when it hit me. I finished the watch and went to the emergency room.”

The doctors told Andrade he had a tumor rupture, which ultimately expanded within itself causing the intense pain.

“I had just gotten off maternity leave when I received the news” said Brittany, who just had a newborn son, Sawyer, four months ago. “I asked for more leave regarding the situation with my husband, and my YNC Jevon Echols referred me to Lt. Chalfant for help with the situation. He helped us coordinate to get my husband over here.”

The leadership of CNRMW was involved in helping the Andrade’s. CNMRW Commanding Officer, Capt. Frank Martin, and Chief Staff Officer Cmdr. Kevin Barnett, and Command Master Chief (CMDCM) John Hall, CNRMW, coordinated with USS Bainbridge CMDCM Laura Nunley to get Andrade over to the Lovell FHCC.

“There were numerous options we could take,” said Hall. “It was decided by the Andrade’s that Angel is taken care of over here because of their newborn child and the convenience of family living in the area.”

“The hospital in Virginia wanted me to stay there for treatment,” said Andrade. “I determined that it was better to be with my wife, Brittany, because we just had a child, and also my family is here too.”

Eventually, the NWW received word of Andrade’s diagnosis and wanted to hear what he wanted to do.

Andrade said the NWW really pushed for his wish to be with his family during his time of treatment and recovery. He was issued orders 24 hours after his initial request to be with his family in Great Lakes.

“The ultimate goal is for a full recovery, as well as progression in Andrade’s Navy career,” said Chalfant. “Right now, the immediate phase is focusing on his recovery.”

“I’m feeling positive with all the help and treatment Lt. Chalfant and the NWW has helped me with,” said Andrade. “I’m grateful for this program.”

“I wasn’t expecting award for what I’ve done to help my sailors,” said Chalfant. “Just helping sailors and being humble about is all I ever want. It was nice surprise being recognized for my work.”

For more information on the NWW – Safe Harbor program, call the NWW Care Line at 855-628-9997, or visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil.

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