Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blogging Woes and Facebook Pages

MedEvac (DustOff) 
I had to abandon the blogging format in favor of Facebook. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was necessary. This post took over 45 minutes just to download and format versus 5 minutes it would have taken on Facebook. Needless to say, it just wasn't a competition where time was involved. I had to make the move.

Litter team prepares to off load MedEvac
Moving on forced a change in the style of my writing, making me focus on a single photo with a very concise narrative. Some may thank the good Lord for this switch, as I've been known to be long-winded. :) 
FST and BAS team prepares and evaluates patient prior to entry into FST
Additionally, moving to Facebook has made it easier for people to find this story of Forward Surgical Teams that I've been fortunate to serve with over the past 3 deployments. Each being unique in their personnel and locations. Each deployment has had their ups and downs and every single day I find myself searching for becoming better as a surgeon and as a person.

FST members evaluates trauma patient
I've worked with so many people, and no matter who they are, or what position they held, or how they felt about me or how I felt about them, they all have made a positive impact on me. Yes, for sure there are people who didn't like me or I didn't like them. No matter - as some had good reason not to like me. I learned that I needed to try harder to be better. 

FST surgical team performs emergency trauma operation.
I have moved forward (mostly) and the previous deployments have made this deployment successful in most every way. My grandfather told me that you never stop learning. When you're just a 10 year old, that's hard to understand. Heck, it's even hard to understand as a 20 year old. But when your more than double that age, you really start to understand how true that really is. Another great mentor of mine, Dr. James "Red" Duke used to say almost every day - "I've never seen that before". He was over 70 when I heard him say that. I bet he still says it today. But, gosh darn it, he was right also! You never stop seeing something new, as long as you keep your eyes open.

Lieutenant "C" and his famous smile
So, with that all being said. If you haven't come over to see the FaST Surgeon Facebook page, just click the link and check it out. You don't have to sign up to be a Facebook member. You can still check it out and see the photos and commentary. Thank you all. I hope that you see someone you know or get a better understanding of what we do as part of a Forward Army Surgical Team - FaST.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back in the 'Stan

I have arrived. Or so the saying goes. It's cold in Afghanistan and I made it to my final destination just in time before the snow closed the passes. Movement in Afghanistan is limited by weather and terrain. Helicopters need to have clear weather to fly through the mountain passes. So, it's not uncommon to get stuck in a particular location for many days if not weeks during the winter months.

I am still trying to make a final decision on what to write about this go-round and where to post. I may abandon the old blog format and move over to only posting on Facebook. If you haven't yet clicked on the Facebook "Like" button, please do so now. :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A FaST Surgeon’s Goodbye

FOB Salerno Loud Bird

As the song goes by REO Speedwagon… It’s Time For Me To Fly… It certainly goes by fast. At least it does for me. But in real time, it’s a chunk of life. Just think about 3 months. What do you plan on doing for the next 3 months. How much does your family need you over that time? What about your work? It’s hard on those back home. Now think about a year, because that’s how long the rest of this team spends here. It’s a daunting commitment.

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The surgeons are the lucky ones. We do the work that we really love to do and we do it for people who are incredibly deserving of the best care possible. So don’t ever worry about us. We get more back than we could ever put in.

Fast Surgoeon With SCAR - Photo By CPT "C"

Plus, it’s not all war all the time. We get time to enjoy the finer things in life. Like shooting a SCAR heavy! … that’s what put’s a big smile on my face.

94th CSH (FWD) Providers - FOB Salerno - Photo By CPT "C"

I get to meet really good people. But frankly, we come and go. We’re visitors to the team that stays here for an entire year. The photo above was taken with two providers that were leaving (the middle guys with helmets). Other people will replace me, and the cycle will continue. I’m not the only FaST Surgeon in town.

94th CSH (FWD) Providers - FOB Salerno - Photo By SGT "W"

The medical provider teams out in forward locations can be quite small. We cover 24/7. But there’s enough down time to recover. It’s not much unlike being a fire fighter. There’s tons of time to sit at the fire station. Most fires are readily manageable with the assets that you have. But when the fire rages, it can challenging.

94th CSH (FWD) Team - June 2012 - Photo By PAO

But it’s the team that counts. The surgeons and anesthesia providers are supported by nurses, medics, technicians and administrative staff that make it all possible. I thank the 94th CSH(FWD) for their great leadership and ongoing commitment to providing the best care possible. I thank my former team (the 909th) for giving me a terrific baseline of experience and knowledge, helping me come well prepared for this deployment.

FOB Salerno Sunset Over Flight Line

So, with that… I’ll leave you with sunset pictures of FOB Salerno. Let it serve as my metaphorical cowboy ride into the sunset. Let’s all hope that this war comes to a close as soon as possible.

FOB Salerno Sunset Over MRAPS

Sewing For Troops–They Need Your Help Now

Sewing For Troops

During my 2010 deployment, I came upon quilts (fantastically well made quilts) that were given by our nurses to our wounded soldiers prior to them being evacuated from our FST. As I checked into their origins, I found Linda Swinford. Through the years, Linda and a team of generous and caring people have put in their hard work and time (and money) to make neck coolers, helmet liners, blankets and quilts for our troops. They have had a few names previously associated with them – First, “Operation Helmet Liner”, then “Citizen S.A.M.” … but eventually, Linda and her volunteers had moved on to become “Sewing For Troops” and “Homemakers Extension Association in Benton, IL”. I want us all to at least remember … “SEWING FOR TROOPS” (because it’s easier to remember than HEA in Benton).

Sewing For Troops 2

Linda was kind enough to get in contact with me again, so as to send quilts, blankets and sheets to us at FOB Salerno. This gave me the opportunity to ask her more about her crew, how they do what they do, and more about the organization. Below is an edited excerpt from an email that she sent to me:

Currently, our "crew" consists of:

1. A group of volunteers who meet at Sandy's Sewing Center in Springfield, IL regularly to make neck coolers and serge around fleece blankets, the latter for our wounded heroes over there. They also make 100% wool neck gators from wool fabric for Special Forces when we have funds to buy the wool. Sandy designed this pattern, and SF loves the gators, as they are versatile for how they wear with helmets.

2. Jules, a Marine in Korea, and his wife LaMoyne who make neck coolers and troop quilts. LaMoyne is my quilting mentor.

3. Joann, in Salem, IL, who knits the wool ski masks (helmetliners) when we have funds to buy the yarn. She does beautiful work and has cranked out hundreds of these to warm our troops outside the wire.

4. After moving down here to Southern Illinois, we started a group of volunteers (Homemakers Extension Association in Benton, IL), who meet monthly to make neck coolers.

5. I work here in our upstairs with about half of the area committed to troops with the big longarm quilting machine, sewing machines, sergers, etc. My role has been to pick up from the various volunteers named above, maintain contact with our deployed troops, and ship to them.


Sewing For Troops 3

Quite frankly, Linda and her group of volunteers could use your help. They have had very little support recently. I surmise that folks around the country simply have grown tired of the war, or just don’t realize that our troops are still out here in the fight every day. This year (reported as of June 22 ,2012), over 1,326 US Service Members have been wounded in action and 108 have been killed in action or have died of their wounds, while serving as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). In total, 1,583 troops have lost their lives and 16,553 have been wounded in action in OEF.

We are still here, and our country will continue to have troops in harm’s way for the foreseeable future. Take the time, right now, to help Linda and her all volunteer team by making a cash donation. 100% of every donation has gone, and will continue to go, to buy materials or to pay the postage for shipping overseas. In the last 7 or 8 years, they have shipped somewhere between 90,000-100,000 neck coolers, helmet liners, blankets and quilts to our troops. Today they are in need of funding and most certainly appreciate your donation.

You can donate two ways:

1. Send Checks To:

Sewing for Troops

1750 W. Wabash Ave. Suite B

Springfield, IL  62704

2. Those with PayPal accounts can donate via PayPal to (*PayPal deducts a service fee for donations paid by credit card*).

Please visit their website for more information.

Note: This is a personal request, by me only, and should not be considered endorsed by the US Army, or any agency of the US Government. Sewing For Troops is a small, private, charitable organization. Currently, they have not had the funding to file for a 501(c)3 and therefore your donation may not be tax exempt.

Picture Of The Day–23 Jun 2012 “Whiskey Redux”

Medics from the 94th CSH(FWD) assist surgeon (right) in operating room

I’ve previously posted about the 68Whiskey Combat Medic (AKA Health Care Specialist) during my last deployment. That post was focused on the “line” medic, who’s job is dedicated to providing point-of-injury care during the battle. Our medics take on a broader variety of responsibilities. They are integral to the assessment, care and management of our patients from the time they enter the emergency room, to the time that they are evacuated. They obtain IV access and vital signs, assist in evaluation of the patient, and help the surgeons with emergency procedures. The photo above is illustrative of the broader experience that medics can get while attached to an FST or CSH. They can assist in operative procedures and gain further understanding of wounds and their operative management. Finally, they continue to care for the patients in the ICU until their eventual evacuation. Today’s salute is for all the 68W combat medics.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Picture Of The Day–22 JUN 2012 “Boom–Boom”

Soldier Fires AT-4 During Training Exercise - FOB Salerno

From Wikipedia: The AT4 (also variously AT-4, AT4 CS, AT4-CS, or AT-4CS)[6] is an 84-mm unguided, portable, single-shot recoilless smoothbore weapon built in Sweden by Saab Bofors Dynamics (previously Bofors Anti-Armour Systems). Saab has had considerable sales success with the AT4, making it one of the most common light anti-tank weapons in the world.

Soldier Fires AT-4 During Training Exercise - FOB Salerno

All I really know is that this puppy makes a giant “Boom” followed closely by another farther away “Boom”. It’s impressive.. that’s to say, I walked about 800 meters, still being another 200 meters from the range, and this thing woke me up from a dead sleep. It’s darn loud.

Picture Of The Day–21 JUN 2012 “FEVER”

1LT Laura M Walker Army AirField

1LT Laura M Walker Army Airfield is located on FOB Salerno. It’s runway is suitable for C-130 missions, giving us the added capability to evacuate critical patients in situations when rotary aircraft aren’t suitable. This may be due to large numbers of patients needing emergent evacuation, or when the weather prevents rotary wing aircraft from flying safely.

C-130 Fever Flight Leaving FOB Salerno

When we request fixed wing air evacuation, this comes to us as an Air Force C-130, under the callsign “FEVER”. The airframe provides significantly more space than a UH-60 Blackhawk, thus allowing for more medical crew to tend to patients. This medical team can consist of physicians, nurses and medics, giving them the ability to provide the a high level of attention during the flight. Finally, the C-130 has a speed advantage over rotary evacuation, cutting the time from Salerno to Bagram in half.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Picture Of The Day–20 JUN 2012 “Evac”

94th CSH(FWD) Team Evacuates Patient

Evacuation of critical patients is a complex task that requires significant resources and logistics. It’s a huge team effort that reaches across a multitude of lines. Coordination occurs across the country, because patients are moving to and from multiple locations simultaneously. It’s easy to think that you’re the only fish in the pond…. but the pond is an ocean and there’s a lot of other fish out there doing the same thing we’re doing at the same time.

Picture Of The Day–19 JUN 2012 “We Stand Ready”

Trauma Surgeon - FOB Salerno

Our mission is straightforward. We’re here for the troops. There’s no better mission.