January 14, 2011

At Bagram's Joint Theater Hospital

Just before New Year's, NPR ran a short piece on All Things Considered about the advances in the treatment of trauma that have come out of nine years of constant warfare. It was both heartening and heartbreaking.

Old Techniques Discovered Anew

Aggressive use of tourniquets, which have been used on the battlefield for hundreds of years, is helping to stop bleeding within moments of injury.

"The soldier out in the field that encounters an explosion or a gunshot wound, the most important part in his chain of survival from the explosion, until we can get him to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.] probably is what his battle buddy does — the guy in the next vehicle or the guy who was 50 meters away," says Benjamin.

Only a decade ago, tourniquets were a last resort, thought to carry serious risks of doing harm. But early during the Iraq War, soldiers began carrying their own tourniquets, and now all U.S. troops carry special tourniquets designed for use with one hand. The change reflects the chilling number of wounds that involve lost limbs.

This wasn't the easiest segment to listen to, but it's stuck with me ever since. I recommend at least reading it, as the entire transcript is available online. However, if you have a few minutes to spare, this is one of the stories where listening does make a difference.

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