Borderland trauma patients could help save lives thousands of miles away

Updated: Tuesday, January 21 2014, 10:01 PM MST
Borderland trauma patients could help save lives thousands of miles away story image

By: Stephanie Guadian 
EL PASO, Texas - In summer 2010, my photographer and I witnessed military doctors, nurses and medics in action while embedded with the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Afghanistan. 

“We have a 248-bed hospital that can deploy anywhere in the world. We are one of the unique units called up at a moment's notice,” said Col. Peter Lehning.

Fast forward a few years. Members of the 31st Combat Support Hospital (CSH), based at Fort Bliss, are preparing for another mission to the Middle East.
This time they are doing so with the help of University Medical Center. A new program allows military personnel to work side-by-side with doctors and nurses at the Borderland's only level 1 Trauma center.

Patients at UMC have injuries that are more serious than those seen at William Beaumont Army Medical
Center -- a level 3 trauma center.

Capt. Adam Sokolowski is among those learning hands-on, real-world experiences -- life-saving lessons he will carry into a war zone or domestic disaster area.

“The first day, I can tell you whatever we had to take care of downstairs and in the ICU was far beyond what I thought it would be. It's very beneficial,” said Capt. Adam Sokolowski.

UMC is also benefiting from the unique partnership. Sandy Gonzalez works in the hospital’s trauma center.

“You learn more and you perfect your skills when you teach. Having the opportunity to have the military here, and explaining our interventions and life-saving measures, only makes us stronger,” said Sandy Gonzalez.

The collaboration, perhaps, couldn't come at a better time.

“With the drawdown, as we slow down and we are out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of casualties we are seeing and dealing with in theater has been greatly reduced,” said Col. Peter Lehning.

The Fort Bliss/UMC program is designed to ensure the military caregivers’ skills remain sharp. Perhaps nothing can fully prepare a person for Afghanistan's blistering heat and sandstorms --- but when the 31st CSH arrives ---they will be ready to save lives.

Members of the 31st CSH are set to deploy to Afghanistan at the end of the month.

Borderland trauma patients could help save lives thousands of miles away
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