Accidents can happen in one of the world's most unforgiving work environments. That's when St. Louisans shine, like ship surgeon Lieutenant Commander Pam Choi and HM3 Christopher LaMacchia.
"That medical emergency in the middle of the night, we get up and we respond,” LaMacchia said.
"I'm so grateful for my training at Washington University it really prepared me for this role,” Choi said.
Dr. Choi is the ship's only surgeon; the vessel doesn't move without her.
"I certainly recognize it’s a tremendous responsibility and all I want to do is give my all for the sailors here and give them the best possible care we can give them,” she said.
Choi demonstrated her surgical precision for our news crew. Using a camera and a claw, she moves small beads from one pole to another, simulating minimally invasive surgery.
"The first time you do it, you're like, 'whoa,' but then as you keep doing it you become faster,” she said.
The ship surgeon contributes her success to her immigrant parents.
"I remember my dad would tell me all the time, 'You're the one who has to get yourself through this world and nobody else,'" Choi said. “'You're the only one responsible for your own success and failures."
It's the American Dream she hopes to share with her three-year-old son.
"I miss my husband and my son, but I think every single sailor here misses their family, so I'm not unique in that,” Choi said.
LaMacchia also knows that sacrifice. As soon as the ship left port, his wife Brie went into labor with their first child.
"It's a part of the job. You miss a lot of important things,” LaMacchia said. “It's not one thing I wanted to miss.”
Luckily for LaMacchia, his commanders understood.
"Med evac had to fly somebody off the ship and they selected me ... It was quite a thing to see your first-born son welcomed into this world by his mother and father,” he said.
LaMacchia's son's name is John Christopher Carlo, an ode to his military family back home in Mulberry Grove, Illinois.
"We take care of business out here and we make up lost time with our families,” he said.
They come from different background, but both are proud to serve.
"It was always apparent to me how fortunate we were to live in this country with so many opportunities and so I always wanted to give back and service my country,” Choi said.
Choi will return to Missouri for a pediatric surgery fellowship while Lamacchia will head to a naval hospital in Sicily. No matter where they land, they'll never forget their launch.
"To my St. Louligan Buddies,” LaMacchia said. “Big shout to you guys, love you guys, and next year STL SC is going straight to the top.”
”Everyone at Wash U,” Choi said. “I'm so grateful for all the training and mentorship and friendship. Looking back on it, those were the best parts of my life and I miss it and I think about them very frequently.”