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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Realities of War: First Day

Published October 10, 2007 9:38 AM by Erin James

We landed at Ramstein Air Force Base this morning. The flight over on the C-17 Globemaster was quite loud and cold. In my healthy, wide-eyed and excited state, I had a difficult time sleeping and relaxing. I can't imagine that experience under critical care. The transport plane we took was returning to Ramstein for regular service. Retired military, family of military and soldiers on leave were onboard. Here I am with Staff Sgt. Robert Payne. (photo by Jeffrey Leeser) 

The transport plane we took was returning to Ramstein for regular service. Retired military, family of military and soldiers on leave were onboard. Here I am with Staff Sgt. Robert Payne.

Public affairs tells us Ramstein is "where the rubber hits the road," in other words, this is the hub turning military into and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Patients we're going to witness being unloaded are either incapacitated, heavily medicated or psychotic. They are fresh off the boat, so to speak, coming right out of Iraq. Last night on the news I watched a report about another 22 soldiers killed in combat. (More about Iraq Coalition Casualties.) I wonder, will the injured be sent here tomorrow? Will I be seeing the news come to life? 

 Today we're talking with the flight nurses and other medical personnel at Ramstein. Among my many questions: what are the medical considerations delivering care at high altitudes on the medical evacuation plane? How does the pressure alter how the body absorbs medication? Under what extreme circumstances do the in-flight surgeons open up a patient in flight?

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