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News | Dec. 30, 2010

JTF-B 's MEDEL assists surgeries in La Paz

By Staff Sgt. Kimberly Moore JTF-B Public Affairs

Seven members of Joint Task Force-Bravo's Medical Element at Soto Cano Air Base assisted local surgeons in La Paz, Dec. 21, in a Medical Readiness Training Exercise.

Commonly known as MEDRETEs, the objectives include providing U.S. military personnel training in delivery of medical care in austere conditions and promoting diplomatic relations between the U.S. and host nations in Central America.

This particular day the team assisted in two cholecystectomies and one inguinal hernia repair.

"A cholecystectomy is an open gallbladder removal procedure in which we remove the gallbladder through a single, large incision in the abdomen," said Lt. Col. Bernard Kopchinski, Joint Task Force-Bravo surgeon.

"An inguinal hernia," Colonel Kopchinski said, "occurs when an opening in the muscle wall doesn't close like it should before birth. This leaves a weak area in the abdominal muscle and pressure on that area can cause tissue to push through and bulge out."

Capt. Danny Sandefur, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, said the patients aren't the only ones who benefit from their participation in these surgeries.

"While the local communities do benefit from us providing equipment and supplies for their surgeries, being involved in those surgeries helps us maintain our skill level."

"Not only that," added Tech. Sgt. Vincint Edwards, Surgical Technician, "but it's giving back. It's a good feeling knowing you're helping out."

The team gets to enjoy that good feeling of giving back pretty regularly, Sergeant Edwards said. "We usually go out to either La Paz or Comaygua two to three times a week."

The group has a close relationship with the local community's surgical teams.

Capt. Ileen Verble, Operating Room Nurse said, "They've come to expect us to come out so we just call them the day prior to ask what surgeries they have scheduled and we load the necessary equipment and drive out the next day. Working with them is educational for us too. They do so much with so much less."

"Working with the local surgeons has benefited the MEDEL Surgical Team both personally and professionally," Colonel Kopchinski said. "We have formed lasting friendships while establishing a collegial work environment."