combat medicine

cr1mson5thestranger  asked:

Hi! I saw quite a few of your answers to questions on comas and thought that I might drop by and ask a slightly different question. I have a character who's an Iraq War veteran and lost his leg in a helicopter crash while deployed. What sort of issues would a rescue team face getting him safely back to base/a military hospital? In addition, are there any painkillers commonly prescribed to recent amputees? Thank you!

Ooooooooh! I like this question! I like this question a lot. Thanks for this!

When you say “What sort of issues would a rescue team face getting him safely back to base/a military hospital?”, there are a few issues we need to discuss when it comes to your characters amputation, the specifics of the helicopter crash, and what may or may not complicate the SAR (Search and Rescue) op.

First, what brought down the helicopter? If it’s enemy fire, that’s a whole different ball of wax than other causes of aircraft crashes such as mechanical failure or CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain–pilot error, disorientation, visual failure at night, pilot suicide, what have you).

The reason for getting shot down being a much bigger deal is that typically, after they shoot you down, people with guns will come to try and finish the job.

I am not a combat medic. I do not play one on TV. (I did consult with a veteran combat medic with service in both iterations of the Iraq war for this post.) But there was an excellent TV show called Inside Combat Rescue that followed an elite special forces group called the PJs, or Pararescuemen, who are Air Force special forces troops who are specifically adept at performing high-risk medevacs.

It’s a neat show, and I don’t typically go for neat. It was on Netflix a while back, but seems to not be anymore. Sadness. If you enjoy this type of thing, I suggest you go and find it.

Either way, there are a few phases of rescuing members of downed helicopters:

1) Learning that a crash has even taken place. Birds go down silent more often than you’d think; a pilot’s last priority is communication, her first is flying the goddamn bird, so hitting the deck without making a radio transmission is entirely possible. Also, consider that the initial hit could have incapacitated the pilot and/or co-, or destroyed comms systems in the bird. I don’t know if the US military has auto-transponders in the case of crashes; civilian birds are supposed to transmit emergency signals if they crash at anything higher that 4 Gs of force. A lot of crashes don’t hit that hard, so often times the transponder doesn’t go off even though it works perfectly in tests after the fact.


2) Assessing that crash. Is there another bird that can get a visual on the crash? A ground unit? A satellite? Where is it, exactly? How much bad guy is between a rescue unit and that crash? How many crew were on board? A single medevac chopper can take several patients, but if a Black Hawk filled with troops plus pilots plus crew chief just went down, or if ground units have taken casualties protecting the aircraft, additional aircraft may be required to take all the casualties.

3) Planning and executing a response. Commanders will have to weigh sending one crew out to try to save another–while the people who just shot the bird down are still around.

4) Launching the rescue mission, arriving on scene. This is relatively obvious. There may be additional units dispatched to secure the scene and provide cover for the medics while they do their job.

5) Attaining fire superiority. One of the basic rules of combat medicine, as has been told to me by military medics and what little brushes I’ve had with it in the civilian world, is: The first priority at any scene involving gunfire is shoot back. You want more lead flying the other way than toward you, because that’s how you stay safe.

6) Assessing the crew. Who’s fucked up, and how bad? Who’s dead? Who’s injured? Who needs to be boarded and collared, and who can be dragged? Who’s bleeding to death, and who can wait? Does anyone need an airway?

One major point about the mechanism by which your character loses his leg: helicopter crashes are really violent. People and equipment get thrown. He likely suffered other injuries in the crash. Many many survivers of helo crashes have significant trauma to their back and head. Spinal fractures are possible. Broken bones in other limbs are very likely, especially in the arms and hands (as people try to protect themselves and/or brace for the impact).

7) Evac and care. Patients will need to be loaded into the medevac chopper on stretchers and secured for transport. Care is ongoing during all phases of flight. People might get IVs in the air, or airways in the air (though it’s MUCH better to tube on the ground if you can). Again, it depends on how many patients there are and their condition.

If they’re shocky enough, your character may even get a blood transfusion in-flight with a unit of O- whole blood.

8) Arrive at Field Hospital. I will be honest: I don’t understand the military’s exact structure when it comes to field hospitals. I’m not sure what they’re called.

I can give you a very confusing graphic from a military lecture on joint trauma systems, but I can’t give you the explanation that goes with that chart:

Your soldier was likely medevaced (the actual term is CASEVAC, casualty evacuation) to a Combat Support Hospital, or CSH (pronounced $), where a Forward Surgical Team (FST) would have performed the amputation. He would have been stabilized there, likely with blood products, and then flown back to a hospital in a major city, such as Baghdad. The next step would have been to be flown to a hospital in a US base, such as Rammstein, Germany.  Ultimately he would have been flown home to the US and likely sent to a VA hospital such as Walter Reed.

As to pain…. here’s what things might have looked like for pain management.

Field Care / CASEVAC care: Your character would likely have gotten ketamine or fentanyl for pain, if he got anything at all. Morphine tanks blood pressures too much and it’s likely that whatever caused the amputation caused enough bleeding to be life-threatening, so no morphine.

Surgical Care: Your character would have gotten an anesthetic for the surgery, and likely some intravenous fentanyl for pain management.

Post-Op Care: Opiates. Now that he’s been stabilized, he can get morphine in the first few days. After that, oxycodone with acetaminophen (Percocet) is likely. This will continue throughout the recovery process.

I hope this was helpful!

I also really want to say thank you to the vet who helped me write this answer. I am in your debt, sir, and thank you for both your time and your service.

xoxo, Aunt Scripty


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A Korean War Icon — The Bell H-13,

Throughout many conflicts in history, certain aircraft become icon’s of the conflicts they took part in.  The Sopwith Camel came to respresent World War I.  Planes such as the P-51 Mustang, F4U Corsair, Spitfire, and Me-109 became icons of World War II.  For the high tech battlefields of the Persian Gulf, it was the stealth fighter.  One icon of the Korean War was the diminutive Bell H-13 a small light helicopter that would seem unlikely to be a venerated icon.  However because of their lifesaving mission, as well as being the star of the popular book, movie, and TV series MASH, the Bell H-13 goes down in history as one of the most important aircraft of military aviation.

The Bell H-13 was originally introduced as the Bell-47 and 1946, making it the first civilian helicopter on the market.  It was a simple light aircraft, distinguishable by it’s large bubble canopy, exposed welded tube tail boom, and skid landing gear.  It was a small aircraft, manned by 1 or two pilots and with enough room for another person.  It had a cruise speed of around 45 miles per hour and a maximum speed of 105 miles per hour.  Clearly, the Bell H-13 was no helicopter gunship, but shortly after its introduction the military became interested in the design.  It was during the Korean War that the Bell H-13 first cut it’s teeth, with NATO forces using it as a reconnaissance aircraft.  The Bell H-13 had many other uses, however its role as an emergency medical transport would cement its legacy in history.

In 1951 the US Army began using the Bell H-13 as an emergency medical transport.  In its combat medical role, the H-13 was outfitted with two patient litters surrounded by protective acrylic glass.  Because the H-13 could only transport two patients, evacuation by helicopter was reserved for only the most series combat casualties, typically soldiers and marines requiring life saving treatment within the “golden hour” or even more pressing “platinum ten minutes.”  The job of the H-13 was to pick up the patients at the front lines, sometimes while under fire, then transport them 10 to 20 miles to a nearby MASH unit (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital).  The use of helicopters was considered an immense success, with 18,000 wounded soldiers evacuated by H-13’s with another 3,000 soldiers evacuated by other models of helicopter.  A hand goes out to the MASH units, were a wounded soldier could expect a 97% survival rate.  Success of the H-13 inspired the US military to expand the helicopter’s role in combat medicine, which further inspired the use of helicopters for civilian medical evacuation.  


Did someone order a bona-fide combat paramedic?

I’m having a good self image day. Felt strong and left my wisdom-tooth-ice-cream-diet behind me.
Take what life gives you with appreciation, and you’ll have the strength to find the good.


You’re shaky. You’re twitchy. At some points you’re burning up and sweat pours out of you like a freak storm. At others, you’re cold and parched, dry as the desert. And when you’re not at one extreme or the other, you exist as strange, uncomfortable mix of the two.

There’s no doubt about it: you’re fucking sick.

Was it something you ate? Something you came in contact with? Maybe there were existing germs in your body that mutated and hit your immune system with something it wasn’t prepared for; like how the flu evolves to combat medicine.

Whatever the case, there’s now a serious culture of germs growing in you, crawling on every inch of your skin, and polluting your once healthy body.

They’ll try their damnedest to kill you: releasing toxic enzymes, stealing your body’s nutrients, waging war on every fiber of your being.

But you’ll pull through. You always do. You’ve been sick before, but your immune system is rock solid and has always obliterated any threats to your health. You’ll have to deal with the fever, sure. But it will heat your body up, make it inhospitable for this god damn virus.

You grin to yourself, thinking about the hypothetical choice your body has given this infestation: Stop attacking, or leave, or die. In any case, you win and they lose. If only these germs could grasp how puny and insignificant they really are; how could they not realize your body would fight back and that, inevitably, would win?

With that thought, you are willing to wait years, decades, hundreds of laps around the sun if you must, content in the knowledge that no plague can destroy you.

Your fever increases. It’s getting hotter.

You begin perspiring. The seas are rising.

And then. Nothing. No more itching. No more queasiness. The germs are eradicated; a result of their own actions, nonetheless.

You relax back into your natural orbit, beauty and well-being restored. You are eternal, indomitable. As you stare out into the far-off reaches of space in every direction, you wonder if they were ever so naive as to call your body their home.

Ha. A planet being the property of its inhabitants. What a ridiculous notion.

Mink Week, Day 3: Alternate Universe/Self Insert

Today’s prompt was incentive to finally draw one of my favorite AU’s I’ve thrown this asshole into. The Magi AU started out as joke here, but became a full fledged heart wrenching storyline we’re all still playing out on Skype. WHOOPS.

Reader’s Digest low down, Mink’s people were mostly wiped out by refusing to submit to the Kou, and reveal their secret of manipulating the magoi of plants for a variety of magical purposes, from combat to medicine. What few survived were promptly shoved into slavery. After years enduring such a torturous life, Mink finally breaks free, and scours for allies to exact revenge against the Empire.

Other highlights include impressing Sinbad enough to be thrown in as a general (both with ulterior motives with that), manages to bring some dumb depraved Magi down to earth (We’re still not sure how that ended up working out, but uh, we ship it), winds up with a pretty sweet Djinn vesseled in his pipe (Stolas), and essentially fucks shit up. \o/