Combat Docs: 'We Fix Them Up and Get Them Back to Duty'
By Lance Cpl. Khoa Pelczar, 1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs
CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan – When service members are injured in a combat zone, a group of medical professionals work tirelessly to keep them alive.
Corpsmen and doctors with Alpha Surgical Company, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), continue doing what they do best, treating and aiding injured service members, local nationals, Afghan National Army soldiers and enemy combatants, through the use of Shock Trauma Platoons and Forward Resuscitative Surgical Systems.
A Shock Trauma Platoon is a field trauma center with an emergency room of four beds, two surgery suites, and a pre and post-operating room, allowing injured troops to get the medical care they need as quickly as possible. A Forward Resuscitative Surgical System is the operating room connected to the Shock Trauma Platoon.Together, the team provides medical care and treatment for service members at forward operating bases until they're strong enough to get back into the fight.
"Our job down here is life saving, limb saving surgery," said Cmdr. Kevin E. Mann, the officer in charge of a FRSS for Alpha Surgical Co., 1st Medical Bn., 1st
MLG (FWD). "When we have patients come in here, we bring them to the emergency room area and treat them until they [begin to stabilize]. Then we take them to the operating room where they undergo surgery. Once we stabilize them in the operating room, we'll fly them to one of the higher level of care hospitals. We usually don't even wake them up from their anesthesia before they get to the next hospital."
According to Mann, 41, from Boise, Idaho, as a field trauma center, they stabilize the patients until they are evacuated to a higher level of care at Camp Bastion or in Kandahar province.
In addition to treating service members, they also treat wounded local nationals, including children.
"We're the busiest Shock Trauma Platoon," said Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Stone, senior nurse with Alpha Surgical Company, 1st Medical Bn., 1st MLG (FWD). "We've had several children with burns. On two different occasions, little kids have brought [improvised explosive devices] into the house, thinking they're toys and [the IEDs have exploded in the house]. We have to hold them for a week or two so we can treat the burn because there's not a lot of alternative for us to send the families."
They even treat wounded insurgents.
"Fortunately, it's our moral obligation to try to serve the enemy just as much as the United States Marines and Sailors," said Lt. Cmdr. William S. Byers, a trauma nurse with Alpha Surgical Co., 1st Medical Bn., 1st MLG (FWD), 41, from Port Huron, Mich.
The doctors and corpsmen have seen nearly 500 patients since Nov. 15, 2009, said Stone, 44, from Green Bay, Wis. Not all of the patients have had traumatic injuries. Some of the patients treated had shoulder injuries, non-life-threatening gunshot wounds and other injuries.
"It's nice to come out here and be available to these young men and women, not only Marines but Afghan nationals, soldiers and [the] Afghan [National] Army," said Blackwell, 42, from Mobile, Ala. "They come in injured, hurt and scared. I feel like I can bring a calming influence to them, ease their suffering and give them reassurance that they're going to be okay."
The doctors and corpsmen help the patients go through the surgery safely and pain free, said Blackwell. Keeping the patient's body and mind stabilized is an important part of a surgical operation, he added.
"I like my job," said Mann. "I like being out here because it's where I am really needed. We fix them up and help them get back to duty. It's a satisfying job knowing you're helping people."