Minnesota Guardsman, first responder, remains vigilant amid COVID-19 pandemic

May 20, 2020 (MINNEAPOLIS) — As COVID-19 continues to make its presence felt throughout the state, some traditional Minnesota National Guard members are serving on the medical frontlines.

Sgt. David Reker of the 204th Area Support Medical Company is one of those soldiers. As a medical instrument technician in the cardiology department at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, he performs diagnostic tests on approximately 100 patients a week.

When he’s not working at the VA, Sgt. Reker volunteers as a first responder in Hudson, Wisc. and is a member of the Hudson Police Dive Rescue Team. Even though his patients are not seeking treatment for COVID-19, he remains vigilant.

“There is some more inherent risk involved in both environments. I still see patients that may or may not be infected with the disease in both the VA and my first responder role,” he said.

He carries a pager 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. His vehicle is equipped with lights and siren, so he usually arrives at the scene of emergencies before the ambulance. Reker believes his first responder role provides reciprocal value.

“This keeps my military medical skills sharp and provides a benefit to the community,” said Reker.

Reker noted how the emergence of COVID-19 has changed the precautionary measures his team takes when responding to emergencies.

“On the first responder side, we don a surgical mask and gloves, or an N-95 mask, gown and shield depending upon what the 911 dispatcher has determined from the COVID-19 screening questions,” he said. “However, if there is a lifesaving intervention that needs to be done immediately, we are probably not going to delay care to correctly don all of that equipment.”

On a recent call with the dive team, they were confronted with an individual threatening to jump off a bridge. Reker feels some of the recent emergencies he responded may indirectly be related to the virus.   

“I am sure that the financial pressures and social isolation due to COVID-19 mandates can exacerbate mental health issues” he said.

Regardless of the circumstances, Reker encourages service members and veterans who are struggling to reach out for help.

“When I returned from duty as a flight medic in Iraq, I utilized Military One Source and the VA, they are both outstanding,” said Reker. “Do not let pride stop you from reaching out. Whatever you’re going though is temporary. Your fist line leaders are available 24 hours to talk to, and https://www.militaryonesource.mil/ 800-342-9647 can put you in touch with someone as well. Never give up, never accept defeat!”

Story by Sgt. Bob Brown