Kurt Huttar and Jeanette D. Rasche with a manikin used for training medics at Fort Gordon's Center for Total Access.
Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett
Landmine explosions injure 12 soldiers - then sniper fire rings out.
Medics must act quickly, yet cautiously.
One soldier has a chest wound from the force of being thrust into a steering wheel, while another loses blood from a leg wound.
The battalion aid station is a 10-minute drive while the combat hospital is a 10-minute trip via helicopter. A chopper can't get to the battalion aid station because it is located in a heavily wooded area.
The decisions the medics make in the next few minutes could cost lives.
"This is a learning experience," said Jeanette D. Rasche, director of distance learning and multimedia at Fort Gordon's Center for Total Access, as she directs the group of Army reservists in a training exercise. "You will do it again and again and again until you are rock-solid."
The injured soldiers the reservists train with are actually high-tech manikins.
Stan, as he is known, is far more advanced than the Resusci-Annies that people have used for years to learn cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.
When hooked up to a computer program, Stan can blink, breathe (releasing the right mix of chemicals a human does when exhaling) and react to fluids introduced through an IV.
Stan has a heartbeat audible to a stethoscope, and his pulse can be taken at various points on the body.
Stan can have allergic reactions, and Stan can die. An advanced version of Stan can cry, and vomit.
With the data about the landmine scenario entered into the computer, the reservists work quickly. The soldier with the chest wound seems fine at first. His vital signs are stable; however, if the medics don't watch him, he will die.
"The sack around his heart is filling with blood," Ms. Rasche said in a low voice.
The medics keep a close eye on him but realize all is not as it seems. They stabilize him and send him to the proper place.
The medics check the gunshot victim, who has arterial bleeding and no pulse in his foot.
"His leg is at risk," said Ms. Rasche.
Without the pulse, the medics realize the danger; however, they spend too much time treating him without getting him to the hospital, where a surgeon is available. He dies.
In all, two of the patients die during the exercise.
"It's a very important triage decision," she tells the group after the first exercise is completed. "Even when you do everything right, somebody will die."
Each time the exercise is completed, Ms. Rasche can add complications to make things trickier. They can run out of supplies; the ground ambulance could hit a land mine; a patient could have an allergic reaction to medication.
The important thing is to get the trainees to think, she said.
Fort Gordon received the manikins in August 2001. Since then, about 500 reservists have trained on the manikins. During the spring semester, a group of nursing students from the Medical College of Georgia will come out to Fort Gordon weekly to train as well.
Using the manikins has an added dose of reality, said Sgt. Dorothy Gunder, who is a licensed practical nurse in her day job.
"Looking at it, seeing that he's getting worse, actually seeing it, you know you have to react," she said. "I like hands-on so much better."
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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