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Medics Gain Access to Land Mine Victims

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

SAN ANTONIO, June 1, 1998 – Every week, land mines kill 500 people worldwide. And according to global statistics gathered by the Institute of Surgical Research here, 10 million land mines are still planted around the world waiting for more victims.

Military physicians would like to examine and, when possible, treat land mine injuries, because they know they may be called one day to treat American service members injured by the deadly devices. That opportunity will arise later this summer when the first phase of DoD's Blast Resuscitation and Victim Assistance -- BRAVA -- program begins with the deployment of a joint-service medical team to Sri Lanka.

"We want to develop an indigenous medical capability within DoD to treat and rehabilitate land mine survivors," said Army Dr. (Maj.) Robert Harris, chief of the institute's extremity trauma branch. "Each of the service medical departments (Army, Navy and Air Force) will be tasked to provide team members."

Before the four- to five-member team leaves for Sri Lanka, however, the institute will examine the effects of land mine explosions on donated human cadavers at Camp Bullis, Texas. "We'll bring the BRAVA team in so they can see what happens during the explosions, then transfer the bodies to a morgue, where the team members can more closely examine the wounds.

During the Phase 1 deployment, the medics will observe local health care treatment of land mine victims, Harris said. Follow-on efforts will include immediate, pre-hospital care and in-hospital care.

Harris said teams will be assigned to several countries where land mines are prevalent. The Army's Communications-Electronics Command Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate Countermine Division at Fort Belvoir, Va., funded the BRAVA program.

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