5/23/2011 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii- -- In the early hours of the morning on May 22, a C-17 from the 535th Airlift Squadron and medical crews from the 13th Air Force Surgeon General's office and 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, departed in a moment's notice for Pago Pago, American Samoa, to save the life of a critically ill child. The five-year old dependent of a retired Army member suffers from a congenital seizure disorder and had been hospitalized for more than two weeks due to his inability to breathe independently. Following a prolonged seizure, his family rushed him to Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago, where they attempted to intubate him. During their effort to insert a breathing tube, the child vomited and inhaled the matter into his lungs, also known as aspirating. While the medical center was able to medicate and treat him for his seizures, he was now entirely reliant on a ventilator to breathe. LBJ Medical Center recommended that the patient be moved to the nearest military medical facility with the resources to treat him. With his condition listed as critical and the transport urgent, the hospital called upon the 535 AS and a team of medical professionals from the 13 AF and 18 AES to make the transfer to Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii. "I received the call Friday night about 8:00 p.m. to fly to American Samoa and medically evacuate the patient to Tripler," said Maj. Aaron Fields, a critical care air transportation doctor with the 13 AF surgeon generals office. "I initially felt the child was too sick to move, but the transport was critical."
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Some 42,300 Gis have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they are beneficiaries of the most advanced medical care the services have to offer. On the battlefield there are no Star Trekian tricorders wielded by magical Dr. McCoys, able to diagnose damage in a single swipe. The reality of combat care is far more prosaic. Today, real-world strategy pushes cutting-edge medical care as far forward as possible, delivering fast, focused treatment to the most critically wounded of warriors. So effective is the U.S. military at saving lives that the mortality rate for those wounded in combat during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is “8% or 9%,” says Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Rasmussen, deputy commander of the Institute of Surgical Research (ISR) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. If a wounded soldier or Marine makes it to a “Role 3” facility, one fitted to handle advanced surgical and trauma cases, the vascular trauma surgeon says the death rate “is about 2%.”He cautions, “It’s not that 98% of our troops survive wounding. The died-of-wounds rate is still about 8% or 9%. But if they make it to a Role 3 facility… it’s very likely they will survive to the States.”
FORT DETRICK, Md. (AFNS) -- There's little debate about the risk of a brain injury when a service member gets a blow to the head, whether from an enemy round or from crashing against a wall or being inside a vehicle during an explosion. But some of the foremost academic researchers from around the world, working in cooperation with the Defense Department's Blast Injury Research Program, are trying to determine exactly what happens to a service member's brain when it's exposed to a blast, but with no direct head impact. Their answers could change the way the military protects tens of thousands of deployed troops from improvised explosive devices, mortar rounds and other explosions, said Michael J. Leggieri Jr., the director of the Defense Department's Blast Injury Research Program Coordinating Office. DOD officials have long recognized the risks of overpressure and shock waves associated with blasts on the human body, Mr. Leggieri said. For the past 18 years, researchers with the Army Medical Research and Material Command here have conducted a research program focused on occupational exposures to blasts. As a result, the command helps the DOD evaluate the blast impact of every weapons system before it's fielded. But the current conflicts, and the frequency of percussive blasts and explosions, leave researchers questioning: What effect are they having on the brain, and how can we better protect service members against traumatic brain injuries? The answer isn't as easy as it may appear, Mr. Leggieri explained. That's because, despite decades of study in the U.S. and around the world about brain injury, no one completely understands what happens to the human brain during a blast. In fact, DOD has a lot of clinical data about the impact of blasts on the brain, but that's from animal studies, Mr. Leggieri said. Comparing animal data to humans, particularly when dealing with something as complex as the brain, raises as many questions as it answers, he said. In terms of humans, DOD has just one confirmed clinical case of a deployed service member who suffered a brain injury in a blast without hitting his head, Mr. Leggieri said. "We know a lot about what happens when you get hit in the head or hit your head against something and it causes a brain injury," Mr. Leggieri said. "That has been studied for decades, primarily by the automotive industry. Impact is something we know quite a bit about. But this whole question about blast is still a question." Theories abound in how blasts can cause brain injuries, Mr. Leggieri said. One prevalent theory advocates that the blast shock wave causes the skull to flex and as a result, damages the brain. Another theory actually has nothing to do with the head. It supports the idea that the blast pressure squeezes the thorax, much the way fingers squeeze a tube of toothpaste. The result, theorists say, is a sudden vascular surge that goes up into the brain, causing an injury. Getting to the bottom of what exactly happens is more than a scientific exercise, Mr. Leggieri said, it's critical to finding the best way to protect service members.Add a comment