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International Forces Train Afghans in Critical Care

By Army Capt. James Bressendorff
Special to American Forces Press Service

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2009 – U.S. and other international troops in Afghanistan recently provided training in critical patient care and blood processing to Afghan doctors that they hope will spread throughout the country.

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An Afghan doctor with the National Military Hospital in Kabul preps an Afghan soldier to donate blood at the Kandahar Regional Military Hospital in Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyrona Pearsall

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Afghan and coalition mentors from the National Military Hospital in Kabul provided the first-of-its-kind training here Oct. 19-22. The two courses were designed to fill shortfalls in health care provider training, as well as strengthen the Afghans’ ability to provide quality care within the critical moments after an incident occurs.

“It’s very important to have this kind of training because of the sustainment aspect,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Lorn Heyne, chief of the medical embedded training team at Kandahar Regional Military Hospital. “As these young providers grow in their ability to provide care to the wounded soldiers here, they will eventually move on. They will have the opportunity to train other providers and they will go on and they will treat civilians. Having this basic critical care knowledge is invaluable to the sustainment of the medical care system in all of Afghanistan.”

The importance of the training also was underscored by the Kandahar hospital’s commander.

"This training is very important for us,” said Col. Abdul Baseer. “About two years ago when we started our hospital here, our doctors were not as strong in their practice as they could have been. Since then, mentors and doctors came from the capital, from other provinces, to help train our hospital staff, and the staff’s [capability] kept growing better … it’s very good."

In addition to the critical combat care, hospital staff were trained on blood component processes, as well.

"Basically, what we did was work on some blood component production, which is essentially the collection of whole blood, the centrifugation and splitting of the plasma and red cell portions into separate components," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Leslie Riggs, medical embedded team mentor for the National Military Hospital. "Essentially what that does is it allows for better transfusion therapy for the patient.”

Another benefit of the training was to implement an Afghanistan-wide standardization of how to treat and store blood and associated components.

"We want to organize all regional hospital blood banks to work the same way," said Dr. Mohammad Sakhi, blood bank supervisor and quality control manager for the National Medical Hospital.

Although the success of most training is not measurable until a crisis occurs, the training did have some tangible results.

"I think, so far, the training is a success. The proof of that is in the refrigerator and in the freezer right now," Riggs said. "The blood units and the plasma are ready when needed. We don't like to have to use those products, but they're there if needed."

Riggs also commented on one aspect of the training he finds most important.

"The important thing I think that we've seen from this visit is Afghans teaching Afghans, which has been one of the most important things," Riggs said. "I've come down to help arrange the visit, provided some background knowledge, but my mentee was able to sit this morning and teach one-on-one with his Afghan counterparts here in Kandahar how to do the job … essentially they did it themselves."

(Army Capt. James Bressendorff serves with the 205th Corps public affairs mentor team.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAfghan soldiers volunteer to donate blood during training that covered blood component production at Kandahar Regional Military Hospital in Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyrona Pearsall   
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