Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Combat Lifesaver Course

Yesterday I was certified as a Combat Lifesaver (CLS) after finishing the Army's CLS course. This course covered areas such as performing tactical combat casualty care, opening and managing an airway, treating penetrating chest trauma and decompressing a tension pneumothorax, initiating a saline lock and intravenous infusion, and requesting medical evacuation. There are several other areas also covered, but this gives you a general idea of what we learned. The purpose of the course is to provide a bridge between the basic first aid taught to everyone in the military and the medical training a combat medic receives. The combat lifesaver is a non medical soldier or in my case an Airman, who provides lifesaving measures as a secondary mission as the primary mission allows. Normally there's one combat lifesaver per squad or team. Because a medic may take several minutes to reach a casualty, the CLS can provide immediate care that can save a persons life, such as stopping severe bleeding, administering intravenous fluids to control shock, and performing needle chest decompression for a casualty with tension pneumothorax.

The first part of the course was classroom learning and hands on applications with airway control, needle chest decompression, and administering IVs. I was given a nasopharyngeal airway and also gave one to another student. The best way I can describe this is to imagine a plastic hose the size of your pinkie finger being shoved up your nose and coming out the back of your throat. I learned it hurts very much and that I have some sort of nasal blockage that keeps the tube from going all the way through. I learned this after much pushing and twisting failed to force the tube in my nose and resulted in a bloody nose. I had better luck administering the tube to my "patient" and managed to get it in with only mild discomfort to him. Of course we can't do needle decompressions on each other so we used a medical training aid for that. We did have the opportunity to practice IV's on each other. That was an interesting training session. Lots of blood and three people who fell out - one of which completely passed out for a good amount of time. I've attached some pictures of the IV training - if you don't like the sight of blood you should avoid those pictures. The culmination of the course was field application of the skills we were taught. We put on all our combat gear and attended to "wounded" soldiers. The instructors did a great job of creating realistic wounds and battle field conditions for us to practice with. We had the opportunity to administer IVs again - and of course get them administered to us if we were "casualties". I was lucky enough to play a casualty as well as a CLS. I meant to get pictures of the field exercise but forgot my camera that day.

Here are the pictures I did get.

The first three show my IV setup and me giving the IV. The last shot is of me getting mine.

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