AF only forward surgical team makes a difference in Afghanistan
By Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published September 04, 2013
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The phone rings and a medic answers. It's a service member ready to give a nine line report. There's been a rocket attack and resulting in several injuries. The medics quickly prepare for the incoming patients.
All over Afghanistan service members are deployed to forward operating bases as they continue their mission to train and assist Afghan forces. Currently, a team of twenty four Airmen with a range of medical specialties are deployed to FOB Ghazni as the only Air Force Forward Surgical Team in Afghanistan.
On FOB Ghazni there are two medical facilities to treat trauma patients, the Polish field hospital and an Air Force FST. Both hospitals provide care 24/7 to U.S. service members and coalition forces. The Polish Hospital is a fully equipped hospital and can keep patients overnight if need be, while the FST is a role two facility that specializes in stabilizing patients in order to facilitate their travel to a higher level of care.
"We are not the only ones on the FOB so we have made relationships with other service members on the base," said Maj. Jared Mort, FST Chief Nurse deployed from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. "For example, there was recently a mass casualty event on base, we sent out a call for help and within in seconds people were coming out to lend a hand. Rarely do we get trauma patients in the middle of the night, but we have to be ready to provide care to our troops at all times."
Mort is in charge of managing the nursing services to include making schedules, ensuring equipment works and that everyone is in the right place at the right time to provide the best care that they can. The Ghazni FST is comprised of anesthesiologists, general surgeons, an orthopedic surgeon, nurses and medical technicians. The most common cases seen at the FST are penetrating trauma injuries from gunshots, wounds from improvised explosive devices and vehicular accidents.
"I also manage the trauma triage process," said Mort, a native of Beavercreek, Ohio. "We are the first medical care a trauma patient will receive. We have the capability to provide life-saving treatments such as general/orthopedic trauma surgery, treating chest or abdominal wounds and vascular injuries. When there are a large amount of patients, the team wants to make sure they are treating the most severe patients first, then the walking and talking."
The triage process here consists of doing an initial assessment and treatment prior to the patients entering the Emergency Room. After the patients are brought into the four-bed ER, medics either treat and stabilize or prepare the patient for surgery in the operating room. Once stabilized the team's job is maintain treatment until the patient is transported to Bagram or Kabul for a higher level of long term care. The Ghazni FST is not designed or equipped to treat patients over a long amount of time.
The team also alternates days with the Polish hospital to treat the local Afghans including the Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army and occasionally the local population.
"We get a call from the Ghazni hospital to treat patients if the off-base hospital does not have the capability to," said Master Sgt. Ovendalin Brown, FST medical technician deployed from Luke Air Force Base, AZ.
Following the call, the transport team, comprised of a doctor, four technicians and an interpreter, will go to the gate in a field transport ambulance to pick up the patient.
"At the gate the provider will assess and triage the patient," said Ovendalin, a native of San Jose, Calif. "Pending the patient's situation and doctor's recommendation, the patient will be transported to the FST for care."
Staff Sgt. Adriana Almeida, a scrub technician deployed Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is one of the first responders to gate calls.
"We will have three people provide security and one person staying behind to carry a litter to the patient and provider," said Almeida, a native of Miami. "Going to the gate, you don't what to expect, or know if something got through security."
Almeida continued, "We also have to transport patients from the helipad to the FST. That is something I would never do at home station. Our mission here is important, we save lives."
One recent mission stands out to the team; a soldier who was missing a limb and who had been declared dead on scene, was brought back to life after an hour of resuscitation from the FST. After that he was stabilized enough to be transported to Germany. While there the service member was able to see and say good bye to his family before passing away.
"Everything I have learned throughout my career field I have been able to use here," said Mort. "It's an honorable mission and our team has saved a lot of lives here. It's been a deployment I will never forget."