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Paratroopers hone medical skills at North Shore

Head Trauma Surgeon Matthew Bank demonstrates to pararescue jumpers how to treat severe burns at North Shore-LIJ. Photo by Phil Corso
TimesLedger Newspapers

Jumping from the sky to provide medical treatment in some of the most dangerous conditions is hard enough, according to pararescue flight surgeon Lt. Col. Stephen Rush, which is why he said last week’s special training at North Shore-LIJ’s BioSkills Education Center was so helpful.

Pararescue jumpers, also known as PJs, from the 103rd Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force from Westhampton Beach, were able to practice combat medical skills on cadavers in a special workshop Friday.

“When we have to do this in the field, we only get one shot,” Rush said. “But because of this special training we are receiving today, we can hopefully gain some muscle memory for when we do it for real.”

PJs are operatives usually assigned to treating patients in humanitarian and combat environments. Last week some of them learned critical techniques that previously could only be practiced in basic ways on computerized simulators.

According to a North Shore-LIJ representative, the health system purchased the cadavers for the workshop, which were voluntarily donated.

Training lessons included advanced airway intubations to help with breathing, chest tube placement and deep-wound packing, along with multiple suturing techniques for skin closure.

Capt. Chris Baker leads and manages PJs in their missions as a combat rescue officer and said he was glad to see the jumpers receive such specialized training.

“It is a very rare opportunity for us to train with actual medical cadavers,” Baker said. “You can’t do surgery on a dummy. This is really the closest thing to performing it in real life.”

Inside the North Shore-LIJ BioSkills Education Center, at 450 Lakeville Road in Lake Success, N.Y., operatives scattered throughout a lab watching, learning and eventually executing various medical techniques in a setting much calmer than they were used to. According to Rush, the practice will give them a unique advantage.

“This is sort of a new endeavor for military medicine,” Rush said. “This is the best training we can perform for these guys.”

In one portion of the training, head trauma surgeon for North Shore-LIJ Matthew Bank gave detailed instructions on how to treat severe wounds, including third-degree burns. He marked incision lines on one medical cadaver with a red marker as PJs perched their necks to get a closer look.

“Know your landmarks and cut deep,” Bank said in his lesson.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jason D’Amore led others in lessons on how to get a patient breathing in some of the worst conditions. Baker said it was an experience that could only help the group of operatives.

“These are all such smart and experienced people, but it is even better to get this kind of experience,” Baker said. “There is no better way to learn.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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