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James Paget medics on Afghan front line

PUBLISHED: 13:27 21 July 2010 | UPDATED: 21:57 01 August 2010

AN anaesthetist at James Paget University Hospital is preparing to go to Afghanistan with other military medics to help injured troops.

Dr Steve Wilson is no stranger to this type of work, having already been deployed to war-torn countries four times.

AN anaesthetist at James Paget University Hospital is preparing to go to Afghanistan with other military medics to help injured troops.

Dr Steve Wilson is no stranger to this type of work, having already been deployed to war-torn countries four times.

As a member of the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), he has to fly out with the helicopters to recover casualties from the frontline and return them safely to the field hospital, while providing emergency in-flight resuscitation.

This can be very challenging in the dark, flying fast and low while having to manage the airway, get venous access or decompress the casualty's chest, helping them to survive the journey.

Patients are surviving injuries that would be unimaginable, in even the recent past, due to a combination of better body armour and advances in medical care - especially resuscitation.

Dr Debra Easby, one of the Trust's anaesthetic trainees, also lives a double life, as a squadron leader in the RAF.

Similarly to Dr Wilson in the recent past, she is currently deployed at the main British base in Helmand, with the UK Field Hospital, and works within the resuscitation room, theatres and intensive care unit, and is also likely to be on the MERT.

Her main role in the RAF is as part of the Critical Care Air Support Team, providing critical care during flights from Afghanistan back to the UK.

“To do this sort of work you need to be clinically very confident and level headed,” said Dr Wilson.

“I enjoy being part of a dynamic team providing excellent clinical care to all in need of our help. The team includes surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, paramedics and supporting personnel.”

Tours of duty generally last for two months and medical teams are on call 24/7.

When a call comes in, Dr Wilson or Dr Easby can find themselves scrambling off in a helicopter, flying swiftly to the battle zone to the casualties, before resuscitating and stabilising them on the return to their field hospital.

“This is probably the most dangerous part of our work,” said Dr Wilson. “However, we are very well trained to look after ourselves by the military training we get prior to deployment, which includes mine awareness and weapon training on an assault rifle and a pistol.”

Dr Wilson said that the Trust benefits from his work, dealing with multiple poly-trauma patients, as very little phases him clinically.

“You learn to work in disciplined teams, providing clear leadership, which benefits the casualty by managing them in an expedient, efficient manner,” he said.

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