Medical kits prove to be lifesaver at Iwakuni clinic
Stars and Stripes June 18, 2003
IWAKUNI MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Japan — During the past few years, severe allergic reactions have forced 3-year-old Leah Narte to be rushed to the emergency here room six times.
And in December 2001, her allergies almost killed her.
“She was brought in to the clinic,” said her father, Lt. Gino Narte, 37, a Navy nurse, “and her airway started to close. It was really bad.”
To treat such allergic reactions, hospital staff had to search for medications stored separately around the clinic.
Narte decided that simply was unacceptable for his daughter and the countless others who rush to the clinic up to 70 times a year because of severe allergic reactions.
Now, thanks to Narte, Iwakuni’s clinic has pre-packed kits of information and medications available at all times. They’re called “Leah Kits,” and it was a Leah Kit that helped save Leah that December.
“Thank God for the kit. We got her back,” Narte said.
Before Leah Kits, hospital staff not only had to find medications stored separately but also had to calculate dosages according to a patient’s age and size — and the severity of his or her allergic reaction. Now, staffers just grab a kit: Adult kits and child kits are pre-packed with a dosage calculation sheet and all the medications needed.
Inside the kit is medicine and an algorithm kit showing treatment guidelines.
Allergic reactions can plunge a person into anaphylactic shock; symptoms include fainting, itching, skin rashes and a life-threatening shut-down of the airway.
Quick treatment is essential “because you’re concerned about their breathing,” Narte said.
Typical culprits, such as strong chemicals or drugs, are not always to blame, Narte said. Once Leah took a little bite of her brother’s pizza and had a life-threatening reaction to the wheat flour and cheese.
Like millions of people living with allergies, the Iwakuni toddler is allergic to many different foods, pollen and animals.
“She’s allergic to a lot of things,” Narte said. “About all she’s not allergic to is beef and chicken.”
In a severe reaction, she becomes extremely swollen and itchy and has difficulty breathing.
The Library of Congress recently notified Narte his pre-packed “Leah Kits” were awarded a U.S. patent.
“It’s really a true satisfaction for us … this little place,” said Cmdr. Don Albia, the clinic’s officer in charge.
Narte said although he’s received inquiries and is looking into marketing the kits, he’s taken no steps in that direction yet.
The lieutenant, who’s transferring from Iwakuni soon, said he hopes the new kits have helped the clinic reduce hospitalization costs, and return adult patients to work.
Though the kit benefits many in Iwakuni, and Narte has been fielding queries from health-care providers, he indicated his paternal feelings may have benefited most from the Leah Kit.
“Since we came up with this, it’s been great,” he said. “She’s been taken care of.”