LAKE SUCCESS, NY – It was the 21st century’s answer to M*A*S*H. Recently, a group of Pararescue Jumpers, or PJs, from the 103rd Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard/US Air Force from Westhampton Beach, received training on medical cadavers during a special workshop on combat medical care.
In a room outfitted with six cadavers at the North Shore-LIJ Bioskills Education Center in Lake Success, NY, Jason D’Amore, MD, director of the North Shore-LIJ Advanced Airway Training Center, and Lt. Col. Stephen Rush, MD, a pararescue flight surgeon, taught the PJs critical life-saving techniques that previously could be practiced only in a very basic way on computerized simulators. With scalpels in hand, the PJs watched as Drs. D’Amore and Rush taught them such basic skills as performing advanced airway intubations, chest tube placement, deep-wound packing, suturing techniques for skin closure, and amputation.
What made the story truly remarkable is that the PJs, who are routinely called on to execute the most perilous and extreme rescue missions anywhere around the globe, are not medical doctors, but registered paramedics. After making dangerous landings behind enemy lines, the PJs are then called on to perform life-saving skills in response to explosions, gunshot wounds, or other ravages of war. The purpose of this day-long training session, as Col. Rush explained, was “to help them perform better during a crisis.”
Also on hand was Matthew Bank, MD, a trauma surgeon who offered the PJs pointers on performing an escharotomy -- a procedure to treat burns. He then went on to demonstrate amputations, after which his students went from table to table practicing all the techniques they had just learned.
The day-long session offered by North Shore-LIJ was made possible through the health system’s partnership with Col. Rush and his unit. The session was also attended by members of the New York Police Department and FBI specialists.
The value of a training session such as this is invaluable to the medics, Dr. Rush said. “These people are routinely put to work in some very dangerous places,” he said, “and with the skills they learn here, they will definitely be able to save lives.”