SPC Macario Candia is saving lives. And no, not by charging through intense firefights or dodging enemy bombers. Candia is saving lives by donating blood.
His job with the 153rd Blood Support Detachment involves sending blood all over Afghanistan to prevent casualties; when the blood runs out, Candia and his fellow soldiers start their own blood bank.
As one of the finalists for our Annual Veteran Recognition Scholarship, Candia submitted an essay that he wrote while on deployment in Bagram. The essay highlighted his true drive and passion: being in the laboratory.
Path to the Lab by Macario Candia
My name is SPC Candia, Macario and I currently serve with the 153rd Blood Support Detachment under the 62nd Medical Brigade. We are deployed in Bagram, Afghanistan at Craig Joint Theater Hospital. This deployment and the military experience as a whole has had a very large impact on my education, life goals and career path.
My story is not typical. At my own fault, I only completed three out of four years of a Psychology degree at Arizona State University. I figured I needed something to be productive and beneficial with my life. I decided to enlist as a 68K Medical Laboratory Specialist. Little did I know; this was one of the best decisions of my life.
Basic training came and went, but it wasn’t until I had arrived to my AIT (Advanced Individual Training) that I realized I really enjoyed my chosen occupation. The first six months of my AIT was majority classroom and tests, but there were labs as well. During the lab sessions was the first time I experienced the real tranquility of the laboratory. The instructors were usually nice enough to play a music playlist. All the chaos going on everywhere, my platoon, my family my friends instantly was gone. I was by myself with my samples and nice music. All I had to do was focus and get accurate timely results of samples for upwards to five hours non-stop. I oddly found this very relaxing and peaceful.
The following six months I was assigned to a hospital for the second phase of our training which was mostly a hands-on experience. During this time, it was confirmed that I would spend the rest of my life in the laboratory or in a laboratory setting. For majority of people, the lab goes unnoticed. All blood specimens and body fluids go to the lab to be analyzed for all kinds of diseases and conditions. Over 70% of medical decisions are decided by laboratory results, so it is very important that these tests are done correctly, accurately and timely.
While at the hospital I noticed that a doctor could order a “STAT” or “ASAP” test, which meant that I had to do make that sample a priority and get it done as soon as possible. At the same time though I had thirty minutes to complete the test, compared to “ROUTINE” tests where I have an entire twelve hours to complete. As I was in my training, I met an individual also in training in the emergency department. He informed me that he hated waiting for thirty minutes for lab results. I told him technically I could significantly shorten that time frame if given advanced notice and we exchanged contact information.
Less than a week later, that same gentleman called me and informed me they had an unconscious six-year-old female in the ER, and they didn’t know why. He told me he had just sent down her blood tubes for a large array of tests. I told him I would have the results as quickly as I could. I waited for the blood tubes to come down the chute. Once I had them in my hand, I immediately spun down her blood and fast tracked her specimens ahead of everything else I had going on. I had results in less than ten minutes, and I called my buddy back and informed him that I sent the results up and she had diabetes of some sort because her glucose was insanely high. He thanked me and said he was going to inform the doctor who immediately injected her with insulin. This happened countless times there after until I completed my training at the hospital. It feels great knowing that you are a part of a process that quite literally saves people, and it feels even better knowing that you are a benefit to that process.
Now I am deployed in Bagram Afghanistan in a Blood Support detachment, we send blood all over Afghanistan to save casualties. Occasionally, the blood sent from the states doesn’t suffice and we are low on blood. If we have casualties during a time of low or no blood, we initiate the “Walk in Blood Bank” where we collect blood from individuals in theater in order to save lives of individuals currently bleeding out. During this process I both donate blood and collect blood (separately, of course) to best assist the doctors and surgeons with blood supply. I always have sincere care for my work and more so for the patients.
In order to move forward in the laboratory field, I need to complete my bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University. I have changed my major to Biology. I’ll have that completed by the next spring semester. After, I will take the test for the MLS (Medical Laboratory Scientist) certification. I now know and I think I’ve known for a while now that I want to be in the laboratory setting for the rest of my life. There are plenty of things I’m grateful for from the Army but giving me direction and purpose in life where I can save lives is truly priceless.
-SPC Candia, Macario