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Three wounded warriors shared the patient perspective of trauma care during a Jan. 30 panel discussion as part of the nine-day trauma symposium lecture series at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).
Army 1st Lt. Nathan Rimpf, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Max R. Rohn, and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael N. Wengloski spoke of their pain and recovery, and what they believed to be the most critical part of their trauma care.
Rimpf explained the most critical point in his care occurred between the time he was injured and his placement on an operating table at the first CSH [combat support hospital]. His medic, Sgt. Ryan Kidd, speedily applied tourniquets to control bleeding in both his legs after the lieutenant stepped on a bomb during combat patrol in the Ghazni Province of Afghanistan on July 8, 2012.
The infantry platoon leader credits Kidd with saving his life, along with those at Forward Operating Base Ghazni who rushed to the aid station to give the 12 units of battle buddy blood that was pumped into Rimpf during his first surgery. "At least 12 other Soldiers help save my life," he said.
Twelve hours after arriving at the first CSH and surgery, Rimpf was flown to Baghrum, where he stayed for less than two days before a flight to Landstuhl, Germany and a three-day stay, returning to the states and admitted to WRNMMC on July 13, 2012.
Rimpf, a double amputee - below the knee on the left, and "through the knee" on the right - said he endured "four major surgeries, but at least nine procedures." He was discharged from Walter Reed Bethesda on Aug. 20, 2012 and remained as an outpatient recovering ever since.
Rimpf appreciated the opportunity to speak to health care providers at the lecture symposium. He said the evaluation of trauma care from the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the current war has enabled them, "to see the prevalence of certain injuries and the cause of death," he explained. "They redefined everything down to what the individual Soldier carries to fix that."
Rohn sustained injury to both legs, the right more severe than the left, on May 2, 2009 in Fallujah, Iraq. "It was just a bad day in May," he said. "We were caught in a complex ambush. The first vehicle was blocked off by a tractor trailer. I was in the third vehicle, and the third vehicle got hit by an RPG[rocket-propelled grenade] 3 grenade. We started taking contact from the left," explained the Sailor, who placed a tourniquet on his own leg.
He traveled to Al-Taqaddum Air Base (TQ), Iraq and later to Baghdad where he had his first surgery. Rohn said he spent three days in Balad and another in Landstuhl before arriving at Walter Reed Bethesda. With a total of 15 surgeries behind him, the Sailor said the most critical point of his trauma care was amputation.
"I think the most important part in my case is going from limb salvage to an amputation," Rohn said. His right leg was amputated after a two-year effort to save it. "Since the amputation, everything turned around," he explained.
Since his amputation, Rohn participated in the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Warrior Games last May in track and field events as well as swimming, wheelchair basketball, and volleyball. His future plans include attending Penn State University.
During Wengloski’s first deployment to Afghanistan, a round fired in an Oct. 15, 2011 "horseshoe" ambush hit the Sailor’s left arm. The bullet dislocated his elbow and the hospital corpsman sustained a fracture to his radius and ulna, in his arm. "Basically, it just shattered," explained Wengloski, who was able to apply his own tourniquet at the scene.
A medevac flight carried him to Camp Dwyer in the Helmand Province, where he spent a day after his first surgery. Wengloski eventually headed to Landstuhl for two more surgeries. He said eight days later he was flown to Joint Base Andrews, Md., and admitted as an inpatient at Walter Reed Bethesda for a week before he was discharged on convalescence leave to receive occupational therapy at a civilian clinic near his Connecticut home for 30 days. He returned to WRNMMC in December 2012, where he has remained for outpatient recovery except for a brief inpatient stay.
Wengloski said doctors have performed 11 surgeries since his injury. He explained the single most critical element of his trauma care was the continuity of care he received at WRNMMC.
The Sailor explained Navy Cmdr. George Nanos, a hand specialist, has provided care to him since his first inpatient admission, including the latest surgery more than two weeks ago. "Other than those first surgeries in Germany, it’s been him the whole way," Wengloski said.
Army Lt. Col. Joy Napper, department chief, Health Education and Training, explained why it was important to include patients in the symposium series of classes and lectures designed to enable health care providers to continue enhancing patient care through staff and faculty development.
"When we were planning this we wanted to include them so that we can get a transparent look at our skill set and how we can improve," said Napper, who explained it was reaffirming for trainers to hear they were training providers on the right procedures.
Army 1st Lt. Caitlyn McGowan, a registered nurse on the 4-Center ward said the patient experience panel helped confirm what she does as a nurse every day.
"I work with wounded warriors during their impatient stay. It’s always nice to hear what they thought of the process when they come back to the unit and we see how they’re doing: that they’re walking, [and] they’re more mobile," McGowan said. "You see these guys and they’re in a certain place when they get to you," she said. "Everyday little things, accomplishments, are really huge," she explained. You might not see it every day - subtle things - but then they come back, Wow!"