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Medics Provide First Response at Bagram Gate

By Pfc. Cheryl Ransford, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, July 29, 2004 – Patients come to Bagram Air Base from as far away as Pakistan and Uzbekistan, knowing they will receive the best medical care available. A triage and treatment station is set up at the base's front gate to determine the severity of each situation.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spcs. Chris Grant (left), a medic with 2nd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, and Kelly Gonzales, a medic with the 551st MP Company, place clean bandages on the arm of a young Afghan boy, Naseer, three weeks after he was hit by a truck outside Bagram Air Base. U.S. Army photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The triage station evaluates patients and determines treatment according to medical priority, ensuring those with more serious afflictions are seen first.

Sometimes the initial care from medics assigned to the gate saves patients' lives. "Every day we see an average of six to seven patients, usually admitting one per day to the Egyptian hospital and one per week to the U.S. hospital," said Army Spc. Chris Grant, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Florida National Guard.

Based on the severity of the injury or illness, the medics determine where the patient should be transported.

"Using the training that we have received, we determine if the patient's injury or illness could possibly cause the patient to lose life, limb or eyesight," said Grant.

Each hospital on Bagram has different capabilities.

In some cases, if patients have minor ailments, they will be treated at the triage station and released without being sent to a hospital, Grant said.

"We have seen people come though the gate with everything from everyday body aches to congestive heart failure," said Army Spc. Matt Irving, also of the 2nd Battalion. "We treat the ones we can and help others until further help can arrive."

The medics at the site have treated patients missing a limb due to an explosion, said Grant. The medics make sure the patient is stabilized and give what medical treatment they can.

"Some days we are busy, and others we don't see anyone," said Grant. "We want to be busy because it makes the day go by faster. But on the other hand, in our line of work, if we're busy that means people are hurt, and that's not what we want."

Throughout the day, Grant rotates trained combat lifesavers between the gate and the triage station to help treat patients. Not only does this help the patient, but it also prepares the combat lifesavers, non-medic soldiers who have received training in basic lifesaving measures, mentally for situations they may encounter in combat.

Once the medics finish seeing patients at the gate, they go to the hospital to check on any patients who have been admitted. "We like going to the hospital when patients have been sent in, not only to see how the patient is doing, but also to get feedback from the nurses and doctors about what was done right (at the triage station) and what could be improved next time," said Grant.

"Also going back and letting the patients see your face again helps them realize that the (American) soldiers do care about them," he said. Whether stitching a wound or putting cream on a cut, a little piece of you stays with them."

Being able to interact with the local population has helped these medics understand the value of their job. "This is my third deployment and I've never been anywhere that had this much interaction with the local community," said Irving. "You're able to see the looks on their faces change from apprehension to appreciation."

Before coming to Afghanistan, it was hard for some of the soldiers to explain to their families why they must be away for so long. But after being here just a short while, it's easier, said Grant.

"We have been here for three months, and I have treated as many people with gunshot wounds, burns and missing limbs, if not more, than I did in the four years I was on active duty," said Irving. "It's good to know that we have been able to help so many people in just a short amount of time."

Helping the locals, especially the children, and making an impression on their lives is one of the most important things the coalition can do, said Grant.

"In a few years, the kids that we treat today will be the ones running the country," he said. "Hopefully, they will look back and remember all the ways the coalition has helped them and keep the country moving in a positive direction."

(Army Pfc. Cheryl Ransford is a member of the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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