“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:2-3)
A new project by the IDF Medical Corps called“My Brother’s Keeper” made its debut during Operation Protective Edge.
With a cost of more than 30 million NIS, My Brothers Keeper is aimed at establishing a higher survival rate of injured soldiers and drastically diminishing their pain due to sustained injuries by using the latest medical technologies.
Many pictures of injured soldiers in overpacked hospitals and soldiers fighting for their lives circulated during the last conflict in Gaza. However, the story that these pictures don’t tell is the fight to save the wounded soldiers while they are still on the field of battle, before they were evacuated back to Israel.
My Brothers Keeper took several years and many resources to develop. While it is still too early to tell exactly how many lives were saved, the IDF believes that new technologies, which had not been put in use until now and are not in use by any other army in the world, effectively saved lives on a wide scale.
Director of Combat Medicine for the IDF Lieutenant Colonel Alon Glassberg said that “most combat related fatalities occur at the location of the injury or nearby, and within a very short time of sustaining the injury.”
“We have therefore been searching for more direct ways of bringing advanced medical treatment to them in the field in order to prevent fatalities and stabilize them there so that they have a better chance of survival. 90 percent of fatalities occur within 43 minutes, that is why it is so important to bring the treatment to them,” Glassberg explained.
The biggest challenge that the medical teams face in the field, and the biggest killer, is blood loss. More than 80 percent of fatalities due to injuries in the field occur because of blood loss. Avi Buskila President & CEO of SAREL – Logistics Solutions & Products for Advanced Medicine as well as a Reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the Medical Corps explained: “The majority of cases of blood loss that lead to death are nearly impossible to stop with the application of pressure alone. They require more advanced treatment and faster evacuation in order to obtain the desired result.”
Glassberg said that one of the biggest successes during Operation Protective Edge was the speedy evacuation of the injured as well as having more medical staff on hand together with more advanced equipment.
“In the Second Lebanon War, injured soldiers often had to wait hours before they could be evacuated. This time, we made this a priority and the speedy evacuation resulted in fewer fatalities, and that was a huge success,” he said.
Some of the new equipment that was used in order to save lives of the IDF soldiers in Gaza cluded the Combat Application Tourniquet or CAT, an American developed tourniquet created to provide faster and more complete cessation of blood flow. The cost of one of the tourniquets is approximately $25. Every soldier in Operation Protective Edge was outfitted with one and can apply it as the need arises to save time and blood.
The Combat Application Tourniquet
Another innovation that was used is a new bandage that contains special powder to quicken blood clotting in a wound. Every paramedic was outfitted with these bandages whereas in Operation Cast Lead only the doctors had them. They cost $40 apiece.
A new medicine was introduced that also aids in blood clotting, and which according to Glassberg, “the earlier it is taken the more lives we save. The world knows about this medication but we are the first to use it on the battlefield.”
Additionally the IDF made sure that 500 packages of dried plasma, which can provide for an instantaneous blood transfusion for wounded soldiers, were available at all time in the field. Each packets costs $160 and were purchased from Germany.
According to Glassberg,“every paramedic and doctor had one of these dried plasma packs on their back and within three minutes, by mixing it with a liquid, they would be able to attain the correct blood type of the patient and administer a blood transfusion.”
This technology has been around since the 40’s but was discontinued due to soldiers contracting viruses and illnesses from bacteria that had been dormant in the dried plasma. Germany patented a way to kill the dormant bacteria and viruses in the late 90’s and succeeded in developing the plasma free of infection.
Currently Germany, France and Israel are the only countries that use the dried plasma, which has been found to be even more reliable and safe than plasma found in blood banks.
Another new item in theIDF Medical Corps package of ‘lifesaving goodies’ was the Actiq® Lollipop, which is a pain relieving opiate based on Fentanyl Citrate, which is far more powerful pain reliever than morphine. The lollipops, which costs $1, were first used in Operation Protective Edge.
“For years we have neglected the importance of treating pain in the military, adopting a ‘hang in their’ attitude. When we relieve an injured soldiers pain, we enable them to receive treatment more readily and relieve the risk of PTSD as well as the suffering from chronic pain which can develop from wounds,” said Glassberg. Actiq does not cause a drop in blood pressure which is one of the dangerous side effects of morphine that can cause a variety of other issues while treating a wounded soldier.
While the IDF medical corps is making advancements in the field, the LIBI Fund was able to see the results in front of their eyes last week as they visited injured soldiers in Tel Hashomer hospital, where many of them were recovering.
The soldiers themselves seemed to be in good spirits for the most part during the visit, and were recovering both mentally and physically. The relatively low number of wounded who were still receiving treatment at the hospital is a testament to the efforts by the IDF to treat injured soldiers faster, and more completely, dealing with some of the biggest issues already on the battlefield.