LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) --
A doctor here, who recently returned from an Afghanistan deployment, left a lasting legacy at the neurosurgeon's former deployed base.
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Randall McCafferty, from the 59th Surgical Specialties Squadron, was deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, where he established the first neurosurgery department at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital.
"My number one priority upon my arrival was to create a U.S. Air Force neurosurgery presence in country," Dr. McCafferty said. "With the help of Tech. Sgt. Andy Nobles, we were able to accomplish this in about three weeks."
Their work resulted in a modified pre-deployment package better suited to the mission at the hospital.
Some of the other things that he had to accomplish included developing transfer of patient protocols, making changes to existing orders, developing guidelines dealing with head and spinal injuries and determining theater capabilities for neurosurgery.
Life, in many ways, was the same as doing a 24-hour on-call shift at any level one trauma center. The major difference was that "call" lasted seven days a week, Dr. McCafferty said.
"The difference in Afghanistan was that I dealt primarily with penetrating wounds instead of the blunt injuries I normally see at Wilford Hall Medical Center," he said. "The workload was heavy, but easily manageable because I had no elective neurosurgical workload, no administrative duties and no family responsibilities. And, at the end of the day, my (quarters were) only a one-minute walk away."
Although many things became routine, like morning meetings and daily rounds, there were constant signs the joint theater hospital was providing care in a nation at war.
The first and foremost mission of the hospital was caring for American and Allied troops and, when possible, there was the opportunity for humanitarian missions and education.
"One of my most memorable experiences was Zahara, a little girl who was brought in after suffering a significant brain injury from a penetrating wound caused by shrapnel," Dr. McCafferty said. "She was a fixture in the hospital for a very long time and numerous people were involved and heavily engaged in her treatment."
Zahara received multiple surgeries, three of which were performed by Dr. McCafferty.
"It was a true team effort from all involved in her treatment, from the pediatricians, surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists," he said. "She actually became a morale booster for the hospital during that segment of time. She made everyone feel good because our efforts were paid off with miraculous results."
Dr. McCafferty said that team efforts and the team spirit were some of the most rewarding experiences from his deployment.
"Everyone was motivated to get things done," he said. "The camaraderie that was there among all the members was beyond what I had experienced in quite some time."
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