17 April 2013

Veterans, combat medicine, and the Boston Marathon bombing

Tough Ruck soldiers clearing a path to victims. Photo: Military Friends Foundation.

These soldiers, participating in "Tough Ruck 2013," were running the Boston Marathon to honor comrades killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, or lost to suicide and PTSD-related accidents after coming home.

When the explosion went off, Lieutenant Stephen Fiola of the 1060th Transportation Company and his group immediately went into tactical mode. "Myself and two other soldiers, my top two guys in my normal unit, crossed the street about 100 yards to the metal scaffoldings holding up the row of flags. We just absolutely annihilated the fence and pulled it back so we could see the victims underneath. The doctors and nurses from the medical tent were on the scene in under a minute. We were pulling burning debris off of people so that the medical personnel could get to them and begin triage."

Much more here.

Carlos Arredondo, center, runs with other responders with an injured man in a wheel chair past the finish line the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo: CHARLES KRUPA/AP

One of the Tough Ruck Soldiers was running for Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, who was killed in Iraq in 2004 while fighting in Najaf. His brother later took his own life in grief. Carlos Arredondo and his wife, Melida, were waiting for that runner at the finish line when the bombs went off. Carlos Arredondo immediately ran across Boylston Street, jumped the security fence, and helped the wounded.

Meanwhile, medical lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq are being used to help the Boston Marathon bombing victims:

The two bomb blasts that ripped through the finish line area at Monday's Boston Marathon have caused mayhem and injuries similar to those seen during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army medical experts said Tuesday.

But lessons learned during the past 10 years of war may also help the injured in Boston, they said.

The blasts killed three people and wounded more than 170. Injured runners and spectators sustained broken bones and head injuries. Some of the victims have had limbs amputated.

People who witnessed the blasts but escaped injury could also be affected by acute stress in the first few days and post-traumatic stress disorder in the long term, experts said.

"It's tragic," said Lt. Col. Brian Sonka, a surgeon and trauma medical director at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. "It sounds to me like the injuries may mirror the injuries we see overseas in the combat hospitals."

During the past decade, the Army has learned several important lessons during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those are being applied to the situation in Boston, Sonka said.

"In the past 10 years, there has been a revolution in the way we manage massive hemorrhaging," Sonka said. It started with work done at the Ibn Sina hospital in Iraq and has now become common practice.

And finally, there's this open letter from a wounded warrior seen at The Boys of 3/5 Facebook page.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WOUNDED OF BOSTON - As a veteran, double amputee, and fellow Massachusetts resident, I'd like to offer my condolences and deepest sympathy to the families of the victims of yesterday's attack. I'd also like to offer words of comfort and support to those whose lives were forever changed yesterday by traumatic loss of limbs. Although it's undeniably tragic , you will recover. And you must have hope that this terrible trauma will in no way stop you from living a full and productive life. In fact, this will be a defining moment in your life. In the coming days, weeks, and months, you will find a strength and resilience you never knew you had. Take solace in the fact that we, in the veteran community are recovering with you. Look to the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost limbs for support and inspiration.

- Army Sergeant Peter Damon, double amputee and accomplished painter

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