Heard at AARC: CCAT on the Prowl
Military themes pervaded AARC in San Antonio this year - whether you admired the uniforms many attendees proudly wore, listened to Dr. Bird talk about the integral role of the U.S. Air Force in his biomedical engineering career, or sat in on the lecture series about the role of the military therapist in war. My seat in said lecture series was initially on the floor because so many attendees shared my interest in the RT in the military. But I was lucky enough to snag a seat just in time to hear Staff Sergeant Matt Falat, RRT, deliver his presentation about working on the Critical Care Air Transport (CCAT) Team.
CCATT, a primary component of the Air Force's aeromedical evacuation system, can create and operate a portable ICU on board any transport aircraft during flight. The high specialized, three-person team consists of a physician specializing in an area such as critical care, pulmonology, anesthesiology, or surgery along with a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist
As a long-time team member, TSgt Falat discussed how dramatically military care differs from civilian care. The big picture looks like this: you've got a large number of causalities, easily overwhelmed resources, unsecured treatment locations, limited supplies, delayed evacuation, extended pre-hospital time, and multiple types of trauma. In a snapshot, you'd be seeing a therapist trying to provide care in a tent with air conditioning in the middle of Iraq. The coolest part of that tent would still register 105 degrees Fahrenheit, not to mention the heat added by the therapist's protective gear.
Needless to say, therapists in the military face unique challenges and dangers in addition to the typical complexities of providing respiratory care. "But today we've got much better survival rates that we've ever had in the past," TSgt Falat said. That's because they provide essential care, emphasize early evacuation, modularize deployable medical units, and work with what they've got.
Often CCAT teams may need their own transport because they might not have an aircraft that's been specifically set aside for their missions. Sometimes they have to share space with bombs and bullets - transforming the hull of an aircraft from ammunition storage into a working hospital. Their 790-lb. equipment bags typically house enough supplies to treat four to six patients for about 48 hours. They carry monitors, IV pumps, suction devices, ventilators with AC, PEEP, SIMV, and CPAP, and portable lab devices.
CCAT has been optimizing practices and tightening training and competency as they provide medical care for those involved in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. They've now streamlined the process so that in a mere 72 hours, they've triaged the patient, stabilized him, treated him, and transported him back to U.S.
Whether you have questions about how to get involved or experiences you'd like to share, please feel free to discuss your thoughts about respiratory care on the front line of war in the comments section below.