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9/4/2012 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Every day, hundreds of U.S. military nurses work around the clock providing care to wounded warriors operating in Afghanistan. Each of these professionals have memories that stay with them; for Air Force Maj. James Webb, his experience has given him a new perspective and greater appreciation for his calling. Webb, a Critical Care Nurse from Olive Branch, Miss., attached to the Army's 966th Forward Surgical Team with Task Force-Medical Alpha, was shot when his team began taking enemy fire while loading patients onto a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of a MEDEVAC crew in eastern Afghanistan Aug. 15, 2012. It was because of the incident on that August day in Ghazni Province that Webb was awarded the Purple Heart recently at a ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Since its inception in 1782 by General George Washington, the Purple Heart remains the oldest award still given to military members, awarded when injured or killed while serving in the line of duty. After receiving the medal, Webb said he draws strength from the men and women in his unit. "It's very inspirational to be around everybody in our crew. I love and believe in the mission," said Webb. Webb said he is motivated by the people he works with, but he also wants to deliver that inspiration to the men and women on the ground who need his help. "It's important that our guys and girls out there can trust that there are those willing to risk everything to make sure they make it back to their families." Army Maj. Chris Chung, Commander of the 101st General Support Aviation Battalion, MEDEVAC Company, and Maj. Webb's commander, says he has high esteem for the efforts of both Webb and his teammates. "Critical care nurses are the key part of the MEDEVAC team in the amount and the type of care we can provide to the wounded Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine on the ground," said Chung. Chung said he considers it a privilege to work with an Airman like Webb, and admires him for his positive attitude and desire to get back to work. "I have the greatest respect for him, especially because he is continuing to move forward to rejoin the fight down in Ghazni where he was wounded. That's admirable."
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The U.S. military is enjoying the highest casualty survival rate in the history of modern warfare, but medical officials believe they can save even more lives by getting advanced care sooner to injured troops. For nearly a year, a three-member team of Air Force health professionals has successfully evacuated and treated 299 severely wounded troops by taking the emergency department to the injured, and another team is set to stand up in the coming month. Known as tactical critical care evacuation teams, or TCCET, the teams comprise an emergency medicine or critical care physician, a certified nurse anesthetist and an emergency department nurse or intensive care/critical care nurse. The teams specialize in moving and treating patients who have just been injured and risk dying if emergency treatment isn’t administered immediately. The first team’s skills are being put to good use quickly as troops continue the fight in Afghanistan, where the improvised explosive device remains the enemy weapon of choice. Many of the casualties of Operation Enduring Freedom suffer blast-related injuries such as burns, lung trauma, traumatic amputation, blunt force trauma and head injuries, according to Air Mobility Command surgeon Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Bart Iddins. AMC is the lead agency for military aeromedical evacuation around the world, and missions are typically flown by air mobility aircrews and medical teams on C-17, KC-135, or C-130 aircraft. More than 186,000 patient movements have been successfully completed since the onset of operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. Though every combat medic and many nonmedical combatants are trained to deliver tactical combat casualty care on the battlefield, Iddins said the injuries sometimes are so severe that they exceed those capabilities. Tactical combat casualty care has saved many lives, but is in no way definitive treatment, Iddins said. “The casualty must still be evacuated to a higher level of medical care."
When U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Meyer woke up at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in early May, he remembers being told, “You’re in Iowa.” His first thoughts were “Where?” and “Why?” Iowa, Meyer would find out, was a key destination on a road to recovery from severe respiratory failure that nearly took his life. How he ultimately came to the UI is a story of personal strength, family devotion, and the collaboration between UI Heart and Vascular Center specialists and medical personnel from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. For the 23-year-old Meyer—a bright, dedicated, and physically fit Marine from Florida who could easily finish a 15-mile run while he was stationed at Camp Schwab on the island of Okinawa, Japan—what had begun as a cough in early March quickly progressed to a serious lung infection. During a training mission on March 13, Meyer felt winded to the point where he could barely stand. Immediately he was evacuated to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.
“I sat down in a wheelchair, and they started taking off my boots. The next thing I know, I was being sedated,” Meyer recalls. “I went from an oxygen mask to anesthesia. I don’t remember a whole lot after that.” Despite being placed on a ventilator (breathing machine) and receiving powerful antifungal and antibiotic medications, Meyer’s health grew worse. His condition was critical, according to his mother, Laurie Meyer Cox, of Pensacola, Fla. The Marine Corps had contacted Cox and Meyer’s father after the Marine was hospitalized and arranged travel visas and transportation for the parents to be at their son’s bedside.
“Being a nurse myself, I knew what the vent settings meant,” Cox says. “Michael needed a lot of oxygen. He was fighting for his life, yet he continued to get sicker and sicker.” Several days later, Meyer “blew a hole in his lung,” Cox says, referring to a pneumothorax, or collapsed lung. It was the first of several serious complications that had the hospital staff working around the clock to keep Meyer alive.Add a comment