Medical logistics team boosts surgical versatility of New Horizons 2016
A general surgery team performs laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery during New Horizons 2016 in the Dominican Republic. Laparoscopic surgical capability was available during New Horizons for the first time this year. The annual U.S. Southern Command-led readiness training exercise brought military civil engineers and medics together to provide humanitarian, dental and medical services to communities in the small Caribbean nation. (Courtesy photo)
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — Adapt and overcome is more than a catch phrase for two 59th Medical Wing medics. Their ingenuity recently expanded surgical capabilities during New Horizons 2016 in the Dominican Republic.
The annual U.S. Southern Command-led readiness training exercise brought military civil engineers and medics together to provide humanitarian, dental and medical services to communities in the small Caribbean nation.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marchello Tolbert and Air Force Staff Sgt. Jayson Dinsmoor, 59th Medical Logistics and Readiness Squadron, helped bring laparoscopic surgery to New Horizons for the first time.
When the field laparoscope tower – a rugged version of the equipment ideal for disaster relief and humanitarian efforts – arrived in the Dominican Republic, the 59th MDW medical logistics team responsible for setting up all the medical equipment used during the 90-day exercise realized it had a problem.
“You need compressed carbon dioxide to use the tower. The tanks they had in country were nonstandard and incompatible with the equipment. All the fittings were different,” explained Air Force Maj. Matthew Weber, 59th MDW medical logistics director.
Tolbert and Dinsmoor’s resourcefulness got the equipment running without delay. They scoured hardware stores and local shops in the community and eventually found the piece they needed at a refrigerator shop. The Airmen worked with Air Force Lt. Col. Shane Garrett, an anesthesiologist from the Air Force Academy, who assembled the pieces and ensured a satisfactory connection. Just in time, according to Weber.
“That Thursday, one of the (medics supporting the trip) came down with appendicitis. Without the ability to perform laparoscopic surgery, the patient would have had to be flown back to the states or undergo open surgery,” said Weber. Both those options would have been risky. It’s good fortune that we had the equipment up and running and were able to do the procedure.”
“Sergeants Tolbert and Dinsmoor demonstrated what we have come to expect from all 59th Medical Wing Airmen – the ability to adapt, innovate, and take decisive action to accomplish the mission,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Bart Iddins, 59th MDW commander.
Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique. Patient recovery is generally quicker and less painful because the surgeon creates only a few small incisions, rather than one large incision, according to Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Shawnn Nichols, surgical oncologist and general surgeon with the 959th Medical Operations Squadron.
Nichols’ general surgery team used the equipment to perform three gallbladder removal surgeries and one appendectomy during the team’s two-week rotation to the Dominican Republic in May.
“They’ve never had the capability in the region we were in – a very austere environment,” Nichols said “In fact, there are only a few hospitals with that capability in all of the country.”
“The ability to get patients back on their feet quickly is especially important here due to limited support for extended patient care,” he added.
The wing hopes to expand the capability for future exercises.
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