Rush Donation Helps U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Learn Lifesaving Technique

Friday, October 3, 2014

Though the war in Afghanistan is winding down, U.S. military personnel there remain in harm’s way. The war’s death toll of more than  2,000 U.S. soldiers includes two that occurred in late August.

With a need still remaining for emergency medical training, Rush University Medical Center donated lifelike dummies to the cause after the U.S. military sent out a call for supplies in the spring. In August, Rush was acknowledged by the military for its efforts with a plaque and a flag that flew during combat missions in Afghanistan.

The dummies had been used to train health care students at Rush’s simulation center. In Afghanistan, they help U.S. paramedics teach soldiers how to perform a potentially lifesaving technique called a tracheostomy, a procedure where a tube is placed through the neck and into the windpipe to provide an airway that stabilizes breathing.

The paramedics had been teaching soldiers the technique using watermelons — a less-than-ideal solution due to their tendency to break apart easily.

“Once the request came in, sending help was a no-brainer,” said Lois Halstead, PhD, RN, vice provost of Rush University. “It’s nice to be recognized by the U.S. military, but it’s even better to know that our efforts have given soldiers tools that help them learn how to save lives.”

The request for assistance was relayed to Rush from Gary Cohen, LCSW, co-president of Employee Resource Systems, the Medical Center’s employee assistance program. Rush’s ensuing donation was the latest gesture in its long run of support for the military.

Earlier this year, U.S. Army Special Forces Command medical personnel took part in a course at Rush to polish their advanced trauma training skills prior to deployment, and Rush’s emergency medicine department regularly provides advanced trauma training for other military health care personnel.

Three weeklong sessions are held each year to train approximately 140 soldiers ready to be deployed for military action. Rush has trained and certified Army medics, Air Force aerospace medical technicians, Navy corpsmen, flight surgeons, Army physician assistants and military nurses.

In addition, Rush opened a new center for veterans and their families in February called The Road Home Program: The National Center of Excellence for Veterans and their Families at Rush. The center was created to support service members and their families who were deployed to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and have returned to civilian life in the greater Chicago region with combat-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.