“Before God, Before their Mothers, they call for me. I am the Medic, and I will always come for you.” The Madness of the Combat Medic
Army combat medic educators advance battlefield, training skills “There is not another army on the face of this planet that provides the same level of medical care to its warriors as ours does,” Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel Allyn said … ‘The 68W is extremely important today,’ U.S. Army Medical Command, Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Ecker said. ‘The combat medic has always been and always will be the base of Army Medicine.’ ”
You hear that, warriors? You know who I’m talking to. You have a right to walk proud! You make us proud of you. And your presence gives reassurance and confidence to your fellow soldiers.
68W is the Army MOS designation for medic. The Army actually uses the words “Health Care Specialist” instead of “Medic”. Am I the only one who thinks, “No, they are MEDICS”? Second only to God in the hearts of their fellow soldiers. And maybe not second. 😉 Thank you for recognizing that, Sgt. Major Ecker.
If you’re a combat medic, you probably can’t bring yourself to opt out, to quit the military, when the stress redlines. Because with combat medics, especially for those medics who go on patrol with their units, it gets real personal. So combat medics lock down their emotions and stay in the combat zone. Because when they’re not there, they dream about their brothers getting blown up and dying. Or screaming in pain, calling for them, and they are … not there. On leave. “At home”, trying to shut out the memories and ignore the news and “have a good time”. And not taking care of their brothers. Which explains why some of those “good times” can be explosive, and why they’re almost always intense. They have to be, to drown out the memories and the fears.
If they go home on leave and come back to find that a brother has gone into the Valley of the Shadow … that’s about the highest level of pain it’s possible for a human soul to experience. Surely they know in their minds they have no guilt, but their hearts say different.
This is a soul suspended low over red-hot coals. This side of Heaven – if that’s where the medic is bound – there is no relief. Although I hear that Mighty Oaks can help significantly.
The further you go into this video:
the greater the pain. You are there, in a field hospital, hearing if not seeing everything the medics hear. At 9:03, I turned off the sound and turned on the subtitles. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video worth a hundred thousand. But this hundred thousand words – and the groans – are very hard to endure.
Dr. R Adams Cowley, the man who invented shocktrauma medicine in the US: “If I can get to you, and stop your bleeding, and restore your blood pressure, within an hour of your accident … then I can probably save you. I call that the golden hour.”
There are no extensions of that golden hour, unless a miracle happens. It’s all the medics have. They’re racing against time, often with multiple casualties in the same tent.
At 8:01 in this video, the narrator says “We provide 21st century intensive care, critical care for patients that would otherwise die.” But it’s a stopgap measure, not the last medical step: “It’s designed to do damage control surgery which means save someone’s life so that they can get further in the evacuation system to get definitive surgery.” – Surgeon Matt Hueman.
The field hospitals were moved much closer to the fight, because too many soldiers were bleeding to death before they could get to the hospitals in the rear. Which makes the field hospitals possible targets too, but “For those who make it here alive … there’s now a 98% chance of survival.”
That is flat awesome!
“Battlefield medicine evolved considerably between World War I and World War II. In [World War 1] approximately 4 out of every 100 wounded men could expect to survive; in [World War 2] the rate improved to 50 out of 100.” (Battlefield Injuries and Medicine, David White and Daniel P. Murphy, Ph.D.
“We try and get the chest and pelvis within the first ten minutes, with everything else we do – checking the airway, making sure they are breathing, have a pulse, getting an IV in, doing an ultrasound making sure they don’t have blood in their abdomen.”
These docs are the formula 1 pit crews of medicine. And a Formula 1 driver doesn’t scream in agony while you’re changing the tires. Folks, all of this technology was funded by a capitalist system. It’s a good idea not to forget that. One more reason not to feel guilty for being a capitalist.
But the men and women who make the technology work – they are walking, talking miracles, in my opinion. Thank you, medics.
Captain Nissa, Acting Commander, 27yo West Point grad: “I’m pretty spiritual and every Saturday night I go to Mass. It’s my way of dealing with [death]. It’s in your face all the time.”
Humanitarian treatment of enemies: a 16yo Afghan boy is brought in with a gunshot wound to the hip, and because he’s not American, he goes to a different tent, where he is checked for explosives. The taliban are perfectly capable of wounding an Afghan noncombatant and leaving him with a bomb to kill medics. If you have family, you tend to cooperate with the taliban. It’s an old story.
“Poor night visibility has grounded the combat helicopters, but MEDEVAC flies regardless … Saving lives sometimes means flying blind.” In this case to rescue a combat engineer accidentally sprayed in the face with acid while working on a bombed-out vehicle. He says as the medics pour neutralizer on his face, “It feels like I’m drowning … this does not go on facebook!” Making the medics laugh. One of only two places in writing this where I laughed.
“40% of the casualties treated by the surgical team are Afghan troops or local civilians.” Do you think the taliban are glad the Americans are there? If field hospitals aren’t attacked, this may be why. Enemy casualties American medics treat may live to kill more Americans. Casualties who die or suffer in American care are martyrs encouraging more hatred of Americans. Heads you lose, tails you lose.
The only cheerful thing I can find in this video runs from 21:24 to 22:14 – “Mardi Gras on drugs”! Don’t miss that part. It will make you smile and cry good tears and laugh, especially if you were brave enough to watch the video this far.
10:24 U.S. army 6th Engineer medics in action May, 2012
Ten minutes of two teams of camo’d docs working on two wounded, while a “walking wounded” waits his turn in a chair just inside the tent. The medical talk continues almost without pause as the docs talk to each other and their patients. This is real, but not gross. You don’t see the scalpels actually going inside the bodies.
“Unlike hospital doctors or nurses, who rarely know their patients, medics have the added pressure of being close to the soldiers they are trying to keep alive … when one dies, medics often face self-doubt — an emotion they must hide or risk losing the platoon’s confidence, said Sgt. Joshua Hetisimer, 33, a senior medic with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, who has deployed three times.”
This next article is a combat medic telling you (text) what it’s like:
Blog and article titles: “This is where a simple, often deranged medic can air out everything. Judges be dammed.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
The Hard Choices a Medic Will Face, by the Mad Medic’ ”
“… I told him, ‘hang on this is really going to hurt.’ And then I started shoving kirlex in the halfdollar sized exit wound in the back of his leg … ‘Oh God! Stop! Please! Stop Doc!’ he screamed … ‘I can’t man; I’ve got to do this’ … Plugging it will prevent infection, it will speed the healing, and is one of the quickest ways to start clotting in such a wound, but it will hurt so much. And so on this day I put a man through unbelievable amounts of pain to save him… probably only took 15-30 seconds. But it’s 15-30 seconds that are seared into my memory …
“I’m here to tell you the sound of bone grinding on bone is something you’ll never forget. You have to put it out of your mind or you’ll never get the job done … the worst things to treat are burns … You have to bandage the wounds, you have to … oh, the pain that causes them …”
“But by far the worst thing every medic is trained for, but truly dreads, can simply be labeled as The Choice … One look from a trained Medic is usually all it takes to know that a man is far beyond help … They will scream and holler, call for you, beg and plead but you simply can not help them … The responsibility to a 19 year old that is crying piteously for his mother as he slowly bleeds to death from a wound to his leg that tore into his pelvis … there is usually never one casualty, so you can not ‘waste’ your time on a man you simply can’t save. These decisions are made in a heartbeat, in the time it takes to look a person up and down.”
“Rare is the heart that is so hard that does not break at such moments.”
“Before God, Before their Mothers, they call for me. I am the Medic, and I will always come for you.”