When the heat is on, corpsmen refine skills to save lives
(Left to right) Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael Barber, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Mashfik Hossain, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Laurence Lau and Navy Cmdr. Trevor Carlson, Camp Geiger Branch Medical Clinic department head, work quickly to lower the simulated heat casualty’s body temperature. A core temperature of 107.5 can result in irreversible brain damage and 109 could result in a coma or death. (U.S. Navy photo by Danielle M. Bolton)
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Notorious for battles in every clime and place, Marines do not stop training when the heat is on. North Carolina summers average a heat index in excesses of 100, which combined with training or physical activity, leads to heat-related injuries seen throughout Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune and its clinics.
The Camp Geiger Branch Medical Clinic, responsible for the care of School of Infantry – East students and staff, sees more heat casualties than any other clinic. Although performing to the same Marine Corps Base Order heat causality handling, Geiger has refined the process due to their high operational tempo.
“Geiger is like a seasoned emergency room team – they communicate and respond well to the casualties coming in,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Heather Kirk, deputy director of Branch Clinics.
Like a gunshot wound, heat injuries can mean life or death. “It is our job to save their life,” said Navy Hospital Corpsman Korbin Townsley, who has treated eight heat casualties in the last week. “If they come in with too high a temperature, they have a potential of dying.”
During physical activity, the body’s core temperature rises. As it rises, the body regulates itself by producing sweat, but sometimes this isn’t enough to cool the body down.
“If we are not quick enough, they could have brain damage and not be the same person they used to be,” said Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael Barber. A core temperature of 107.5 can result in irreversible brain damage and 109 could result in a coma or death. “We train with the Marines and take care of them the way we want them to take care of us – that’s what family does.”
The significance of getting the temperature down quickly can be seen in the recovery time of the patient – the difference of 30 minutes could mean days more in recovery. “At a different facility we had a service member come in with a 109 temperature. He was transferred to the local hospital, which was a 30 minute drive,” said Kirk. “He ended up spending four days in the hospital because he his core temperature was not brought down quickly enough.”
Geiger had three Marines come in last week with 109 temps. They spent one night in the Multi-Service Ward for observation, explained Navy Lt. j.g. Brent Booze, the clinic’s division officer. Their recovery was directly related to how quickly the Marines’ core temperature was lowered.
In order to get the clinic’s proficiency level to where it is Booze credits their training and the simulation mannequin, named Wifi.
Wifi, so named because of its Bluetooth capability, is an interactive mannequin. He blinks, sweats, vomits and sheds tears, if that is what the scenario calls for. Additionally, Wifi is one of a kind at the hospital, because his temperature, blood sugar and blood pressure respond to treatment. Booze explains Wifi also responds to questioning, moans and grunts accordingly.
“If you treat two patients quickly and properly while removing their need for hospital stay, you have paid for one Wifi,” said Booze, who received Wifi to his clinic in January and has been training clinic staffs all over the base. Wifi can be programmed with real or fictitious scenarios to test reaction skills and abilities. Wifi is programmable for most heat cases a corpsman might run across, which is why many prefer getting their feet wet with him.
“Training with this guy gives you the opportunity of training and honing your skills without the chance for loss of life,” said Townsly.
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