22 October 2009

From trauma care to rehab: VA doctors visit Landstuhl

Dr. Steven Scott, chief of rehabilitation medicine at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Tampa, Fla., has treated countless wounded warriors - some of them over a period of years.

Scott helps the servicemembers — many whose injuries would once have confined them to nursing homes — learn to drive without fingers, communicate with the movement of their eyes and, in one case, steer a sailboat rudder with a device that responds to puffs of breath.

But Scott had never seen what his patients experience when they are evacuated from the battlefield until a frigid morning in Landstuhl last week. Several gurneys holding soldiers fresh from Afghanistan were removed from a pale blue school bus and wheeled through the front doors of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“I’ve been working six years and I never realized that,” Scott said of the 15-minute bus ride from Ramstein Air Base to Landstuhl.

The lonely bus trip provided new insight for Scott about what patients experience before they make it to his stateside polytrauma ward.

Scott was among several doctors and nurses visiting Landstuhl last week from four VA hospitals in the U.S. In Landstuhl, they met with staff to find ways to improve communication. They also saw, for the first time, the treatment their patients receive at the Army’s way station for troops injured in war.

By the time someone like Dr. Scott sees a patient for the first time, that patient has traveled up to 12,000 miles, been seen by up to 20 doctors and 300 other medical professionals, and generated literally thousands of doucments.

Advanced electronic document sharing along with weekly video conferences between doctors downrange, in Germany, and in the U.S. contribute to this incredible chain of life-saving logistics. Read the rest of the article at S&S.

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