Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Life-saving care from the skies
The Medical Emergency Response Team – the British Forces Airmobile Hospital - is continuing to provide life-saving treatment from the skies across Helmand despite experiencing one of their busiest summers ever.
The MERT is a Chinook helicopter fully equipped with the latest medical technology to allow a specialist trauma team to provide cutting edge treatment to the most seriously injured troops on the battlefield.
The team are on call 24/7; flying into danger zones to pick up casualties, they are literally saving lives on a daily basis. The call can come at any time.
Typically the round of steaming hot tea had only just been put into the hands of the flight crew when the phone went off. “Yes, that’s us,” said the pilot putting down the receiver. Within seconds the atmosphere changes from jovial banter to serious professionalism.
Minutes later the team are on the helicopter and en route to a village in the Nad Ali district from their base in Camp Bastion.
After a gut wrenching flight over potentially hostile territory, the flight lands in a small clearing outside of an Afghan village compound.
The victim - 15 year old Patay Muhammad – is brought on board by stretcher. The bottom part of his leg is missing, the stump covered by a first-aid field dressing. Within seconds the MERT takes off and heads back to Camp Bastion’s Hospital unit.
The teenager’s father, who has come aboard with him, looks on anxiously:
“My boy was out helping his uncle. He’d been sent out to fetch a goat when shortly after there was an explosion,” he said.
“I appreciate this help and the treatment he will receive in the hospital – it would take much money to have him treated at a private hospital.
I am very pleased with the behaviour of the British, it was very nice,” he added.
As Helmand Province’s combat air ambulance, the MERT operates in some of the most challenging environments imaginable.
Working as a flying emergency department, they’re supported by a bomb disposal team, fire and rescue unit and an infantry close protection squad.
Once back at Bastion’s state of the art hospital, young Patay is surrounded by a dozen medics who rush to continue the life saving work of the MERT.
Watching over the scene is Colonel Tim Hodgetts, Bastion’s field hospital medical director:
“The standard of care here is second to none - it is world-leading. You will not find this standard of care elsewhere,” he said.
Although many of the casualties who come through the hospital at Bastion are injured coalition forces soldiers, it has seen 200 Afghan Nationals pass through its doors in the last four months.