This article first ran in The American Spectator’s February 2006 issue. To subscribe, please click here.
LOOK AT THE FRONT PAGE of any major U.S. newspaper or the evening news on cable and network television and you’d think Iraq really was another Vietnam. All you hear about are kidnappings, beheadings, and suicide bombings. Every death in Iraq — be it U.S., Coalition, or civilian — is reported as if it were the assassination of Lincoln or Kennedy.
Of course, while every combat death is an individual tragedy, the U.S. is making slow but steady progress in Iraq. We’re training Iraqi forces to police their own country and hunt down terrorists who continue to kill and maim innocent citizens. Our Army Corps of Engineers, Navy Seabees, and others are helping to rebuild vital infrastructure either destroyed by the terrorists or never deemed important by Saddam Hussein. And we’re helping to foster democracy among a people who were brutalized by an unflinching dictator for more than three decades.
But the truly remarkable untold story of Iraq is that of combat medicine. Put succinctly, there are soldiers coming home today maimed or wounded who ten years ago would have been killed. And while some of the wounded will take years to fully recover, their second chance at life is made possible by some incredible advances in combat medicine that are receiving scant attention from the mainstream media.
“Soldiers are walking on prostheses that wouldn’t have lived before,” said Lieutenant Colonel Clark Searle, an Army orthopedic surgeon who served in Iraq in 2003 with the 86th and 21st Combat Support Hospitals. “People are keeping limbs that ten years ago they would have lost.”
One reason is that the U.S. military has started giving basic first-aid instruction to as many soldiers as possible — not just medics and corpsmen — through a program called Combat Lifesavers.
“We’ve made great strides in teaching a lot of soldiers first-aid skills,” said Lieutenant Colonel Mike Place, deputy commander at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He was a division surgeon with the 101st Airborne in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
“That training is one of the reasons why more soldiers are surviving after being wounded,” he said.
Indeed, bleeding is the number one preventable cause of death in combat. If your buddy next to you knows what to do if you’re hit, your chances of survival go way up. As a result, combat medicine used to refer to “the golden hour” to describe the all-important initial care that a soldier receives after being wounded. Today, thanks to Combat Lifesavers and some of the new medical technology, the talk is about “the platinum five minutes.”
“A major arterial bleed will cause you to die within five minutes,” said Major Lisa Maxwell, a general surgeon who deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the 86th Combat Support Hospital. “What we’re trying to do is focus more on point-of-injury care to stop the initial bleeding, and then use transportation to get them to a hospital.”
BECAUSE SOLDIERS ARE USUALLY no more than 20 minutes away from a Combat Support Hospital, or CASH, the Combat Lifesavers can use a new one-hand tourniquet designed to stop severe bleeding.
“Tourniquets were really frowned on before because of the time it took from when they were applied to when a wounded soldier first saw a doctor or other trained medical professional,” Colonel Place said. “But because the transportation time has been drastically reduced, we don’t admonish anyone from putting on a tourniquet.”
Another advancement in combat medicine is a bandage made of chitosan, a biodegradable carbohydrate found in shrimp and lobster shells that bonds with blood cells and helps form a clot. There’s another bandage that contains fibrinogen and thrombin, clotting proteins that can reduce blood loss by up to 85 percent.
“Both products have been highly effective and there are many reports from the field where they have been able to stop bleeding that normal bandages have not been able to control,” according to Army literature.
Advances in body armor have saved a lot of lives as well.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?