Deployed surgical team gets troops back to the fight

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mike Hammond
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The team moved quickly to fix the broken part - each person anticipating the moves of others and efficiently using tools to get the job done.

It might have been a pit crew keeping a car running its best in a weekend NASCAR race, but the prize for members of the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group surgical team is different from the fame and fortune of a winning racecar taking the checkered flag.

The mobile-forward surgical team is deployed here to rapidly forward deploy in case circumstances downrange require additional surgical personnel. However, the benefit of the team's presence here extends throughout the area of responsibility daily.

Maj. (Dr.) Gustavo Lopes, a general surgeon, said the majority of procedures the team performs on this base are relatively routine surgeries, like repairing hernias, but by being available in theater, the team saves time and provides a healing environment for troops downrange.

"We provide a great service to these guys," Dr. Lopes said. "If we weren't here, the procedures we perform would have to be done in forward areas, where the focus should be on urgent care. Here, it is a safer environment and they can recover in less hostile surroundings."

According to the team's operating room nurse, another big benefit of the team's work is reducing time out of the fight for injured military members.

"Since the members can come here to have a surgical procedure, it potentially saves a trip either to Germany, or even back home to the U.S., which carries with it additional travel time," said Maj. John Mansuy. "Since we're right here, they can fly in, be treated, recover and get back to the fight more quickly."

This was the case for a Soldier who suffered a hernia while serving at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. Local medical personnel diagnosed the injury and consulted with Dr. Lopes, who accepted the patient. The Soldier flew in to this location, was examined by the surgeon and was scheduled quickly for a hernia repair.

During the procedure, Capt. (Dr.) Brian Bane, an anesthesiologist, administered general anesthesia and monitored the Soldier's vital signs and airway throughout the surgery. Dr. Lopes, assisted by Major Mansuy, Master Sgt. Shannon Ray and Staff Sgt. John Kertulis as surgical technicians, repaired the hernia and completed the procedure in less than one hour.

"It will generally take between two weeks and a month of recovery time here before the patient is ready to go back to their unit downrange," Dr. Bane said. "It's good to know we are here to help fix injured service members and get them back into the fight quickly and safely."