Rouel Castillon,Nurse Practitioner, Neurosurgery
Friday, August 17, 2012
Rouel Castillon, a Nurse Practitioner in Neurosurgery comes across gentle, mellow and easy to smile. But, like he says, “what’s inside doesn’t show, “ and it’s clear that when the going gets rough, this Army Veteran gets tough.
Born in the Philippines, Castillon grew up in the Bronx where he still lives with his family. For 20 years he worked as a nurse at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx caring for trauma patients in the ICU and working with Neurosurgery patients. He understates the job as “always hectic.”
At the age of 38, Castillon joined the Army Nurse Corps as a reservist. He was trained as a soldier at Ft. Lewis, Washington and Ft. Dix, NJ in how to use weapons and Trauma Nurse in Ft. Dix and Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. But, nothing he had experienced, even in trauma, really prepared for the kind of casualties he would confront once he set foot in FOB Salerno in Eastern Afghanistan in April 2010. “There were mostly blast injuries. The kind that are uncommon in civilian life apart from terrorist attacks. We treated U.S. military, Afghan police, Afghan soldiers, Afghan civilians and children, “ he said. “We had to be flexible to be ready to care for high risk patients with a very wide range of extremely complex injuries.” Castillon remembers the need to respond to, “anything that came in. Most were multi system injuries. Seldom simple shots. These were wounded who came to us with multi-system injuries to face, head and other parts of the body. Terrible wounds caused by IED blasts.”
Talking about his deployment in Afghanistan makes him remember the difficulties of managing a series of critically ill patients often with little sleep. Castillon always worked nights, but was also awakened and called in during the daytime whenever he was needed. “Of his wartime experience, Castillon says, “It was exciting. You feel you are needed. Your skills are needed.”
Castillon said that nurses and other clinical staff lived with constant risk of injury given that the military encouraged interaction with the local community at the base. “Sometimes they would sneak bombs in. We were hit by mortars often. “Thank God none of my team has been injured so far, But, the Captain who replaced me was killed,” said Castillon who was honorably discharged in April 2011 and returned to his VA job. "He is a highly valued member of our team who has an excellent rapport with veterans and all staff. We are glad he returned from Afghanistan safely," said Dr. Uzma Samadani, Chief of Neurosurgery.
Working with Dr.Samadani and PA Marilyn Otero, Castillon is involved in every aspect of the Department of Neurosurgery including working with neurosurgical residents, and oversight of the ICU, step down and other care units. Although he is a thoroughly experienced nurse Castillon considers himself, “always a student, everything , everyday is a learning process.” Deeply committed to working with patients, Castillon is also about to explore a new off duty challenge as he enrolls in a school of culinary arts.