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Task Force team responds to local medical emergency

By Tech. Sgt. William Farrow | Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs | Jan. 31, 2008

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras — A team of Joint Task Force-Bravo medical professionals were fighting for the life of a 27 year old Honduran man in serious condition from three gunshot wounds received Jan. 31 in Comayagua. 

After receiving initial emergency care at Colinial Hospital in Comayagua, the Honduran doctors there asked for assistance from the Medical Element at Soto Cano Air Base. 

"The surgeon at the local hospital asked if we could transport the patient via ambulance to Tegucigalpa," said Air Force Capt. Jennifer Martinez, MEDEL Operations Officer. The ambulances at Colinial Hospital were unavailable, and there was no landing zone near the hospital for the for a Joint Task Force-Bravo MEDEVAC helicopter, MEDEL was needed to retrieve the patient. "Before dispatching the team to get the patient, we had already determined that (based on his condition) we needed to MEDEVAC (airlift) him," she said. 

The five-person ambulance team, including the JTF-B MEDEL surgeon and nurse anesthetist, drove to the nearby Comayagua, picked up the patient, and brought him back to the MEDEL facility to prepare him for MEDEVAC to Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. 

However, upon returning to MEDEL with the patient, it was apparent to the awaiting team that the patient wasn't stable enough yet for the flight to Tegucigalpa. The MEDEL Emergency Medical Team with the surgical crew--most with previous trauma experience--went into immediate action to try to buy the patient enough time for transport to the civilian trauma center. Some of the quick work needed included resuscitative drugs, IV fluids, blood, hemorrhage control and fracture stabilization. 

Within 30 minutes of "combat medical care," the patient's blood pressure and pulse stabilized enough to transport him via helicopter. The team rushed the patient down the walkway to the awaiting UH-60L MEDEVAC helicopter upon where soldiers from the U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment 1-228th Aviation Regiment, lifted off with the patient en route to Tegucigalpa. The patient's ability to hang on to life was dwindling. 

"While en route, his condition deteriorated, and we had to work to keep him alive until getting to Tegucigalpa," said Army Col. Stephen Bernstein, the MEDEL flight surgeon, accompanying the transport. "It was a heroic team effort and twice we had to perform CPR during the 17 minute flight. We relayed back status changes to ensure the MEDEL liaison physician was able to inform the team at the receiving hospital of the most up-to-date information," he said. 

Colonel Bernstein said upon arrival to the landing pad, the Honduran Red Cross team was waiting and quickly helped move the patient to the emergency room. 

"However, the patient's injuries were too grave to respond to further resuscitative efforts, and the patient died a short while later." he said. 

After the MEDEVAC departure, MEDEL commander Army Col. Michael Sigmon quickly called his team together for an assessment of the hectic life-and-death actions taken which enabled the team to move the patient to toward further care. "Everyone jumped in and stepped up to the task," Colonel Sigmon said. "He came to us an extremely complex patient, and we all did what we needed to do--I'm proud of each of your efforts." he said.