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Desperate treatment used at Bagram to breathe life into NATO ally

A 455th Expeditionary Medical Group team combines efforts with the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation team to save the life of a NATO ally at the Craig Joint-Theater Hospital at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Feb. 18, 2016. The ECMO team, dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center, uses technology that bypasses the lungs and infuses the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. The patient was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, where he will receive 7 to 14 days of additional ECMO treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

A 455th Expeditionary Medical Group team combines efforts with the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation team to save the life of a NATO ally at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Feb. 18, 2016. The ECMO team, dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center, uses technology that bypasses the lungs and infuses the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. The patient was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

A 455th Expeditionary Medical Group team loads a NATO ally, who required Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation team support, onto an aeromedical evacuation transport at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Feb. 18, 2016. The ECMO team, dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center, uses technology that bypasses the lungs and infuses the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. The patient was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, where he will receive 7 to 14 days of additional ECMO treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

A 455th Expeditionary Medical Group team loads a NATO ally, who required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation team support, onto an aeromedical evacuation transport at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Feb. 18, 2016. The ECMO team, dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center, uses technology that bypasses the lungs and infuses the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. The patient was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

A 455th Expeditionary Medical Group team combines efforts with the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation team to save the life of a NATO ally at the Craig Joint-Theater Hospital at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Feb. 18, 2016. The ECMO team, dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center, uses technology that bypasses the lungs and infuses the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. The patient was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, where he will receive 7 to 14 days of additional ECMO treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

A 455th Expeditionary Medical Group team combines efforts with the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation team to save the life of a NATO ally at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Feb. 18, 2016. The ECMO team, dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center, uses technology that bypasses the lungs and infuses the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. The patient was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- A specialized team dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center combined efforts with the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group to perform life-saving treatment on a NATO partner Feb. 18.

The patient was suffering from adult respiratory distress syndrome secondary to influenza B, and had to be admitted and intubated to the Craig Joint Theater Hospital on Feb. 13. His condition worsened over the next 48 hours, and the decision to rapidly activate and deploy an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation team was reached in order to keep the patient alive.

ECMO works by bypassing the lungs and infusing the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. This procedure requires a team of eight, highly-qualified medical personnel to initiate and continue around-the-clock treatment.

“I am grateful for the team that came from SAMMC. This is truly the only chance our patient has of surviving,” said Maj. (Dr.) Valerie Sams, the 455th EMDG trauma czar who coordinated the life-saving care. “With his lung failure and kidney decline, he is still at about a 50 percent mortality risk. However, I think with his relatively young age and lack of significant chronic medical conditions, there is considerable hope.”

The hospital, supported with a staff of 40 providers, nurses, technicians, pharmacy, radiology, and lab personnel, provided tireless care in the intensive care unit. On top of that, around 30 transport medics were used to ensure that the patient could be moved out of theater to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Altogether, nearly 80 military members provided 120 hours of continuous medical care for one NATO ally to have a chance at life.

“I am extremely proud of how all the medics came together to care for this patient,” said Col. Gianna Zeh, the 455th EMDG commander. “They worked non-stop around the clock for six days. They had an unfailing commitment to serve this patient. They never gave up as a team and continuously problem solved to keep him alive. This is a great example of medics providing trusted care, anywhere.”

The patient will need at least seven to 14 days of additional ECMO treatment, and while his condition may still be grim, it is because of the combined efforts of deployed teams he now has a chance at recovery.

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