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The Press for Time during Medical Emergencies
US Navy | Oct. 25, 2022
ATLANTIC OCEAN: When we responded, all we could hear was screaming,” Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Blaine Grandfield, from Merritt, Texas, says, recalling a time a Sailor fell three stories off a scaffolding onto a floating barge while serving aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
A fractured pelvis, broken shoulder, dislocated arm and numerous other injuries were results of the fall. According to Grandfield, the Sailor was screaming as the medical team tightened the reeves sleeve. “You could hear the pain in her voice. Those are the kind of things that stick with you,” added Grandfield.
The medical team was able to save the Sailor’s life after providing initial medical care and using a small boat to row her to a shipyard platform where paramedics were waiting to transport her to a hospital. Grandfield, like many hospital corpsmen serving aboard the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) medical department, uses his past experiences to aid Sailors aboard the ship during a medical emergency.
Ford’s medical department consists of 36 corpsmen who handle and monitor the health of Ford’s 2,700 Sailors and 1,500 squadron personnel. They also respond to any medical emergencies that occur on the ship.
According to Grandfield, depending on a variety of factors such as time of year, in port periods, ship activates and so forth, Ford has anywhere between 30-50 medical emergencies a year.
“Most medical emergencies are due to nausea, accidents by doors, and falls/trips from ladderwells,” says Grandfield. “When a Sailor notices that an injury has taken place, they contact the medical department as quickly as possible.”
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Sarah Vulakovich, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, explains that once the alarm for a medical emergency sounds, hospital corpsmen split up into two teams.
“We always have a team of four corpsmen, an independent duty corpsman and a provider that go out to the scene and respond,” says Vulakovich. “All the other corpsmen that stay behind get a room ready in the main battle dress station. We get the crash cart ready and we establish roles for everyone like airway, vital signs, IVs and so on.”
Once the main medical response team (MRT) arrives at the scene and administers initial medical care to the patient, they look to nearby departments to assist the team in transporting the patient to main medical as efficiently as possible.
“This is done by operating a nearby elevator or by ladderwell with the assistance of qualified stretcher bearers found in the surrounding department,” says Grandfield. “The ship’s security forces also assist in clearing the way for the medical team.”
As the MRT makes their way back to the ship’s medical facility, the corpsmen prepare the room wait to take action. According to Vulakovich, the waiting period can be difficult to deal with.
“In the time between the MRT getting to the scene and us setting up the room at main medical, it feels like a long time,” says Vulakovich. “We’re waiting for communication to be established to find out what condition the patient is in. The entire time I’m thinking if the patient is bleeding out or maybe they are completely OK. That gets me a little anxious sometimes.”
As soon as the patient gets to the ship’s medical facility, a team of providers, specialists and corpsmen begin giving the proper aid needed. Once the patient is in stable condition, they are then taken to a ward room. If more care is needed, they are taken to an intensive care unit or even flown off the ship.
Grandfield explains there are three classifications of roles in the military medical field. Role one is the battalion aid station that can be set up on the field. If the station does not have the proper equipment to handle the situation, the patient is taken to a role two type of care facility, which the Ford is classified as. Ford has the specialists and tools that are needed to treat any major injury, but due to limited space it, does not have everything. When a situation happens that requires resources outside of Ford’s medical department, the patient is taken to a major military treatment facility, or role three hospital.
A medical evacuation, commonly known as a nightingale, is only executed in the event that the patient’s needs are not available on the ship. An aircrew team, including a corpsman qualified as a search and rescue swimmer, accompanies the patient to the new location while administering stabilizing treatment. Ford’s medical department does what it can to give the proper treatment to a Sailor, but according to Grandfield, the best treatment is prevention.
For more information about the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit https://www.airlant.usff.navy.mil/cvn78/ and follow along on Facebook: @USSGeraldRFord, Instagram: @cvn78_grford, Twitter: @Warship_78 and DVIDS: www.dvids.net/CVN78 https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/cvn78.