A 5,000-mile journey to recovery
by Senior Airman Hailey Haux
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
7/12/2013 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- An active-duty Air Force crew aboard a C-17 Globemaster III made history July 10 while flying specialized medical teams and a patient requiring equipment never before used on board a tran-Atlantic mission.
The spouse of an active-duty Army service member, who wishes to remain anonymous, was being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, at a local German hospital prior to being temporarily transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center here for movement back to the United States.
The patient had been receiving the treatment in veno-venous mode by a German medical staff for approximately one week prior to arriving at LRMC. ECMO is the process of removing blood through a large vein, placing it through an oxygenator to remove carbon dioxide, and depositing the blood back into the body through another large vein -- a medical process similar to dialysis treatment.
ECMO teams from San Antonio Military Medical Center, a 24-person staffed hub officially recognized as an ECMO center in May, flew to Germany to coordinate and fly the 5000 mile specialized mission back to SAMMC in Texas, alongside LRMC medical staff.
"ECMO is designed to replace the heart and lung function as a temporary measure to give the body the ability to recover," said Lt. Col. David Zonies, the LRMC medical director of the ECMO program. "Today's mission is to bring the team that is similarly developing in the states our experience and fly together as a validation. So the next step for the San Antonio team will be to stand alone to perform the long-range strategic evacuations."
For order for something of this magnitude to be successful in flight, there are several things that need to happen. Crew members said teamwork is essential.
"We need to make sure the equipment and patient are secure while in flight," said Maj. Michelle Langdon, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa critical care air-transport team lead. "It is important that the team knows their equipment and the other people on the team and what roles they are good at."
The LRMC team first purchased ECMO equipment in 2010, using it primarily to transport patients back from Afghanistan. This trip was the first opportunity for the San Antonio and German-based ECMO teams to transport a patient such a far distance....