Sunday, April 16, 2006

Docs Work Hard, Save Lives

Story and photo by Sgt. Dennis Gravelle
138th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

MOSUL, Iraq – It’s the event that every medical professional in theatre prepares for yet at the same time dreads, but saving lives is in the blood of the 47th Combat Support Hospital staff.

After a suicide bombing at Al Kisik, their medical knowledge and skills were put to the ultimate test. The CSH received 15 Iraqi Army cadets with multiple injuries, said Master Sgt. Shawn Romero, who works in the 47th’s tactical operations center.

“To the casual observer it is sheer chaos, but it was a well organized chaos, there was never a loss of control,” said Col. James Polo, 47th CSH commander. “Everyone did a magnificent job that day and as their commander it was a humbling experience to see everyone work together as a team.”

"At 11:45am we called a mass casualty and activated all medical resources," said Polo. “Over the course of the next 30 to 40 minutes it became apparent that is was going to be a major event,” said Polo.

According to Lt. Col. Karen Dunlap, assistant chief nurse, from Fort Lewis, Wash., the wounded started arriving by helicopter and just kept coming.

“We were told at first we would get 15 individuals, but they just kept coming and we ended up with a total of 33 wounded Iraqis,” said Dunlap.

The wounded were triaged by two Army doctors who decided which casualties needed immediate attention.

According to Dunlap every individual person in this hospital, no matter what unit they worked in, played a very important role in saving lives that day.

“Our job at this hospital is to provide trauma care for Army Soldiers, and Coalition Forces Soldiers, that’s our job,” said Polo. “The day of the mass casualty, my staff went above and beyond what was expected and they performed an outstanding job.”

According to Rikkina Pulliam, head nurse from Lexington. Ky. There was a huge communication barrier, but they took care of their injuries and did an excellent job in doing what needed to be done to treat them.

According to Lt. Col. Thomasine Howard, operating room chief nurse, most of the patients had extremity wounds, wounds on their arms, legs, some with vicious facial wounds.

Surgeons operated for about 16 hours, said Howard.

“People worked all day, barely got breaks or meals, and just continued to work,” said Howard.

“I have the greatest staff in the hospital, everyone did exactly what was expected, they treated patients, did what they were supposed to do,” said Pulliam. “They did a perfect job and I am very proud of them.”

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