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Posted on Oct 2, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Another Busy Day

By James Bradley

It was quickly established that we would send some casualties to the Dutch enhanced medical staging facility in Tarin Kowt. Unlike the previous MASCAL the injuries were too severe to simply offload the Chinook and reload onto a Blackhawk. This time everyone was brought into the facility, life and limb saving interventions were initiated, x-rays were taken, IVs established, wounds redressed, and the patients packaged for transfer. Three patients were loaded on Blackhawks and sent to Tarin Kowt. Although they were supposed to go to the Dutch facility, they ended up in the American Forward Surgical Team (also in Tarin Kowt). The Dutch felt shortchanged for not being able to help. They were asking us to send them some other casualties to them.

Back in our facility, the Canadian and Danish surgical teams quickly got to work. Each team worked for twelve hours. There were nine surgical patients requiring a minimum of three procedures each. The diagnostic imaging team saw twenty patients, each requiring between eight and twenty procedures. The laboratory technicians were equally as busy.

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The patient administration cell, with help from the preventive medicine staff and the hospital clerks, was busy collecting names and personal information as well as the patients’ clothing and weapons. As they were removing some personal effects from some clothing they discovered a ball bearing inside the top left pocket of a combat shirt. It had penetrated the flakvest, bent the guy’s dog tags and a St Christopher’s medallion, smashed his dosimeter, and embedded itself in a plastic sleeve holding some papers.

Back in the surgical suites and trauma bays work carried on. The entire facility was extremely busy either providing clinical care or supporting the clinicians. Other parts of the Task Force kicked in as well. When it was first thought that we might be able to send patients to Landstuhl, Germany that evening, we called over to the logistics folks to get clothing for the soldiers for the flight. The Canadian Battle Group provided t-shirts, shorts, and toiletry kits. The Canadian National Support Element sent underwear, and then went to the CANEX (i.e. the Canadian PX) to buy some shirts, sweatpants, socks, etc. Once the CANEX guy knew what it was for, he donated everything that was required.

After such a traumatic event, many of the soldiers, including those who were not injured, needed someone to talk to. The Mental Health team and padres were busy, and sometimes it was the nurses sitting on a bed holding a soldier’s hand while he told his story.

By evening the ward was filling up, there were still patients in the Operating Room, and some still in the trauma bays awaiting surgery. Around 2000 hours there was a rocket attack on the camp fairly close to the hospital. We moved any patient we could into the bunkers, and covered the remainder with blast blankets. You know morale remains high when those of us in the Tactical Operations Center were betting "Tim Horton" ice cappuccinos on the location of the latest attack. ("Tim Horton" is a Canadian coffee and donut shop that install itself on the airfield.)

Despite the heavy workload that day, when asked what we would do if there was one more Priority 1 patient, Doctor Lieutenant-Commander Ray Kao’s response was, "Hey we are at war, bring it on".

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The following day twelve patients had to be prepared for evacuation to Germany. The Commander ISAF presented all the soldiers with their wound
stripes (Canadian version of the Purple Heart). Later the nursing staff, specialists, and medical technicians changed dressings, prepared medications, packaged the patients, placed them on the ambulances, and then loaded them on the waiting aircraft. The ward went from nineteen beds to only seven beds filled. The next morning it seemed quite tranquil.

The worst part of the MASCAL was when we heard that one of the killed was a medical technician assigned to the Canadian platoon. There was little time to dwell on it because there was still much work to do for the living. Later at the ramp ceremony there was an excellent service for the four
fallen soldiers.

Although a major tragedy happened that day, the staff rose to the challenge once again. August was the busiest month that this facility has experienced and September is well on its way to be even busier. These are not records we necessarily want to hold, but when it comes to caring for our warriors the staff does whatever is needed. Morale remains high and the multinational team is ready for our next challenge.

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