Face of Defense: Troops Train With Surgical ‘Cut Suits’
By Army Staff Sgt. Carrie A. Castillo
Army Reserve Medical Command
FORT MCCOY, Wis., May 20, 2014 Medical Readiness and Training Command members from San Antonio employed a special piece of equipment during a military medical exercise held here from April 26 through May 16.
From Right, Army Maj. (Dr.) Sina Haeri, medical surgeon, San Antonio and Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Frost, Columbia, Missouri, 320th Medical Company, 324th Combat Support Hospital, San Antonio, cut into a patient wearing a cut suit to conduct a simulated emergency laparotomy. Acting patient Army Spc. Kevin Stebler, 912th Dental Company, was brought into the operating room after his arrival for treatment of simulated injuries due to an improvised explosive device. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Carrie A. Castillo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During the training, the military medical personnel employed the Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator, also known as a cut suit.
Army Master Sgt. Tinamarie Reese, a combat medic, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Kristina Boettcher, a licensed practical nurse, are only two of the six personnel that were trained and certified to work with the cut suits during the exercise.
“The neat thing about these cut suits is we can ‘heal’ them,” Reese said. “This gives us the opportunity to have a 24-hour turnaround time on any one of the suits we have here. We prepare one to be worn on a live person with any type of wounds we choose, to create different scenarios. When they have completed the scenario we bring the cut suit back and begin the healing process by cleaning it and then closing the cuts with clear silicone.”
Using the suit “allows them to be able to provide invaluable training to go beyond notional training and be able to actually go through the process of real surgery,” Boettcher said.
Officials said the cut suit is used as part of the exercise scenarios given to medical personnel at either the Expeditionary Medical Facility that is being operated by the Navy, or the Combat Support Hospital that is operated by the Army.
Once the scenarios and wounds are planned, exercise participants like Reese and Boettcher get to work choosing which organs will be damaged by an improvised explosive device, a gunshot wound, or even adding live earthworms to the intestines.
“We try to make everything as real as possible. Yesterday we added live earthworms to the intestines to act as parasites,” Reese said. “A soldier, sailor or airman could very easily drink parasitic water while deployed, so this just makes it more real. I like to see the reactions of the docs when they cut into the organs and there are different materials and smells in there.”
Army Spc. Devonne Woodruff, a dental assistant, 912th Dental Company, Twinsburg, Ohio, was one of three soldiers that volunteered to wear the cut suit. Woodruff met the physical profiles needed to wear the suit.
“It was something different to do besides the other training we are getting while we’re here,” Woodruff said.
“There was one soldier I had to get out of the suit halfway through the scenario. He got claustrophobic,” Reese recalled. “This suit weighs about 35 pounds and it’s worn just like a backward flight suit because it zips up the back.”
The cut suit is designed to be worn by a male weighing about 150 to 200 pounds and 5 feet 10 inches tall, officials said. These requirements are due to the length and girth of the suit. It needs to be form-fitted to the body, with no loose material. The volunteer is also only allowed to be in the suit for up to 4 hours.
The cut suit team employs a blood-pumping system that’s attached to the patient.
“We will add the BPS for the wound on his leg,” Boettcher said, “so that the first responders will have to apply a tourniquet before he can even go into the emergency room. I have a remote that is linked to the BPS and I can let more blood flow until I believe they have the tourniquet on correctly.”
Combat medic Army Spc. Kevin Strebler, an Akron, Ohio, native with the 912th Dental Company at Twinsburg, Ohio, was the volunteer for one of the cut suits.
“I’ve done this two times before -- this is my third time,” Strebler said. “It’s fun. I get to yell and scream about my injuries to play along. The mannequins don’t yell and scream, so they [the doctors] have to pretend more.”