Is Sarin gas the cause of Gulf War Syndrome? Almost immediately after Desert Storm, stories of returning soldiers suffering from a variety of maladies began to surface. First dismissed as malingering, evidence accumulated that something was wrong with many soldiers, but no underlying cause could be determined. Exposure to low levels of chemical agents has long been a suspect, along with sparsely tested “PB” anti-nerve agent medications we were issued. Other suspects included undiscovered parasites or viral infections. But for over twenty years, the fact is, many Desert Storm veterans have suffered, and effective treatment has been unavailable. One problem is, if Sarin is indeed the culprit, that we don’t really have any clue what the long term effects of very low levels of exposure are. Nor do we know what any effective therapies might be.
While I don’t recall any chemical alarms sounding off, other than from low battery levels, it could be I’m just forgetting some stuff. And I’ve often wondered if some of my infirmities might be GWS related, rather than merely the results of hard living.
Trauma care for wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is light years beyond what was capable just a few short years before. Soldiers today are surviving injuries that in Desert Storm or any prior war would have certainly died. Some of this is a result of a massive evacuation and treatment system that the relatively low level of warfare permits. But a large part of the increase in survivability is directly tied to the improvements in immediate care soldiers receive from their battle-buddies, Combat Lifesavers, and Medics. Changes in how IV fluids are administered, simple steps like the much greater use of tourniquets (and the fielding of a handy purpose made tourniquet kit to every soldier, rather than attempting to improvise one from materials on hand), and the introduction of field dressings with blood clotting agents have all been aimed at extending the “Golden Hour.” Trauma doctors have long known that treatment for shock, and blood loss, in the first 60 minutes are key to saving lives. And on todays battlefield, it’s not at all uncommon for a soldier to be on the operating table well within that first 60 minute.
But one trauma has long been problematic, in that medical treatment was impossible until the soldier finally arrived on the OR table. Internal bleeding. Medics have gotten much better at detecting it, but could do nothing about it. And soldiers could bleed out before making it to treatment facilities.
AW1 Tim found an article (from the Australian ABC news, of all places) that brings hope of an effective treatment for internal bleeding on the battlefield. By injecting an expanding foam into the abdominal cavity, medics in the future may be able to reduce the bleeding and stave off shock. It’s a long way from being adopted, but work progresses.
And eventually, almost every advance in trauma care on the battlefield will make it’s way to the EMTs and ERs across America, saving countless more lives.
Guest Artists of the Moment- West Indian Girl- What Are You Afraid Of
That’s from the One Tree Hill soundtrack, of course. S2E17