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Capt. Juliet Morah, a nurse from the burn flight team from the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Brook Army Medical Center in Texas, and Sgt. Richie Velez, a respiratory therapist also from the burn flight team, prepare a burn patient for air evacuation from the intensive care unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday.

Capt. Juliet Morah, a nurse from the burn flight team from the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Brook Army Medical Center in Texas, and Sgt. Richie Velez, a respiratory therapist also from the burn flight team, prepare a burn patient for air evacuation from the intensive care unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Capt. Juliet Morah, a nurse from the burn flight team from the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Brook Army Medical Center in Texas, and Sgt. Richie Velez, a respiratory therapist also from the burn flight team, prepare a burn patient for air evacuation from the intensive care unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday.

Capt. Juliet Morah, a nurse from the burn flight team from the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Brook Army Medical Center in Texas, and Sgt. Richie Velez, a respiratory therapist also from the burn flight team, prepare a burn patient for air evacuation from the intensive care unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Capts. Juliet Morah, left, and Kristine Broger, both nurses with the burn flight team, prepare a litter for burn patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday. Morah and Broger, along with the rest of their team, are transporting five patients who sustained severe burns. Four the patients were injured in Iraq while the fifth was injured during an exercise in Norway.

Capts. Juliet Morah, left, and Kristine Broger, both nurses with the burn flight team, prepare a litter for burn patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday. Morah and Broger, along with the rest of their team, are transporting five patients who sustained severe burns. Four the patients were injured in Iraq while the fifth was injured during an exercise in Norway. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Capt. Kristine Broger prepares an IV for burn patients being air evacuated from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday.

Capt. Kristine Broger prepares an IV for burn patients being air evacuated from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Sgt. Richie Velez, a respiratory therapist with the burn flight team, prepares a burn patient for air evacuation from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday. In the background are Capt. Juliet Morah, left, a burn team nurse, and Staff Sgt. Jose Picart, the burn flight team operations noncommissioned officer.

Sgt. Richie Velez, a respiratory therapist with the burn flight team, prepares a burn patient for air evacuation from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday. In the background are Capt. Juliet Morah, left, a burn team nurse, and Staff Sgt. Jose Picart, the burn flight team operations noncommissioned officer. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Sgt. Richie Velez prepares medical gear for burn patients being air evacuated from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday.

Sgt. Richie Velez prepares medical gear for burn patients being air evacuated from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Wednesday. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Mideast edition, Friday, May 18, 2007

LANDSTUHL, Germany

A case of being at the right place at the right time could mean the difference between life and death for four soldiers severely burned by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Members of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Flight Team out of Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio got a call early Sunday morning that an airman suffered burns over 30 percent of his body during a joint NATO exercise in Bergen, Norway.

Six hours later the team was headed to Norway on a commercial flight with layovers in Chicago, London and Oslo, Norway.

Nearly 24 hours after the initial call, the burn team was on site.

Once in Bergen, the team — led by Army Dr. (Col.) David J. Barillo — evaluated and stabilized the airman before he underwent surgery there on Tuesday morning.

Normally, the team would have returned to Texas with its patient, but at the same time an Army burn doctor in Baghdad sent word that some badly burned soldiers had arrived.

“Our doctor in Baghdad — as the patients were rolling in to the 28th (Combat Support Hospital) — e-mailed all of us and said, ‘Four or five on the way. Just so you know,’” said Barillo, a general surgeon with the Burn Flight Team.

“At that point, we know that they’re going to come (to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center) fairly quickly.

The decision at that point is: Do we launch a second flight team to come pick them up or should we divert and come (to Landstuhl)?”

After a 20-minute discussion, the team already in Norway decided to head to Landstuhl with the wounded airman to meet up with the burned soldiers coming from Iraq.

Normally, a burn team is called to pick up patients at Landstuhl about once every three to four weeks, Barillo said.

A C-17 flew from Ramstein Air Base to pick up the team and its patient on Tuesday night, turned around quickly and flew back to the air base, Barillo said. Landstuhl is a short drive from Ramstein.

In Landstuhl’s intensive care unit, the team encountered the four soldiers burned and wounded Monday after a roadside bomb hit their Humvee.

The wounded soldiers arrived at Landstuhl on Tuesday.

Burns cover between 18 percent and 70 percent of their bodies, and most have associated bone injuries from the blast, Barillo said.

Three of the four soldiers had big burns.

Army surgeons including Dr. (Maj.) Sandra Wanek, a burn and trauma surgeon at Landstuhl, performed more surgeries, recleaned their wounds and prepared them for the flight. Surgeons worked all night Tuesday on two of the badly burned because they were on the verge of kidney failure.

Because of the large amount of care required for burn patients, two to three intensive care nurses were assigned to each of the severely burned soldiers, said Air Force Maj. Shannon Womble, assistant head nurse at Landstuhl’s ICU.

Overall, a lot of the nurses view the wounded as family, Womble said.

“They’re our guys,” she said.

“They are on the lines for us on a day-to-day basis. A lot of our nurses think of them as their family, their brothers that come through, and we’re just going to do anything we can.”

The chances of survival for the three soldiers with big burns are good but not 100 percent, Wanek said.

“Once you can get them through their initial resuscitation, our expectation is they are certainly stable enough to make the flight and get to San Antonio,” she said.

“But with all burns, you still have risk for infection and complications.”

In all cases, the burn team approaches all its patients as if they will survive, Barillo said.

“We go full out on everybody,” he said. “We’ve certainly had bigger burns survive.”

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