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    Doc saves digit, loadmaster back on track

    Doc saves digit, loadmaster back on track

    Photo By Senior Airman Eric Summers Jr. | Airman 1st Class Daniel Cherry, C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, points out the D-ring...... read more read more

    SOUTHWEST ASIA - How many fingers does a loadmaster need to have?

    This was the thought that kept running through the head of a deployed C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster recently during one of the most traumatic events of his life.

    Airman 1st Class Daniel Cherry, a native New Yorker deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., can't imagine doing anything else - in or out of the Air Force - but being a loadmaster. Two weeks into his current deployment, Cherry nearly lost a finger doing the job he loves.

    While waiting for pallets of cargo to be loaded, Cherry noticed that several D-rings on the floor were in the down position which can cause difficulty when the pallet moves onto the aircraft. He tried to flip up the rings manually while the pallets were still on the Tunner 60K Loader but tragedy struck after several pallets had slid into the cargo bay.

    Cherry's finger became stuck and was crushed between a 4,000 pound pallet and the loading rail.

    The collision partially detached the uppermost part of Cherry's middle finger on his left hand and the finger was hanging by a five millimeter thick piece of skin.

    "When it first happened I didn't feel it and I kept working. Something told me to look down and I looked at my hand and my finger was out of the glove and making an L-shape," he said.

    Cherry was rushed to a clinic where medical personnel cleaned, dressed and splinted the wound.

    "The whole time I was being told that it doesn't look good and you're probably not going to keep your finger," Cherry said. "And I really didn't mind - as long as I was able to keep my job - that was my main concern."

    Clinic personnel quickly called in an expert to take a look.

    "They called me right after it happened and told me that they had an open finger fracture," said Maj. (Dr.) Ken Carpenter, 379th Expeditionary Medical Group orthopedic surgeon deployed from the 82nd Medical Operations Squadron, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. "I asked them to describe it to me and he couldn't describe it very well. I wasn't thinking that it was a near amputation, I was thinking that it was a little cut, a little minor fracture type of thing."

    Medical personnel then transported Cherry to the Intra-Theater Care Program here where they evaluated his wound. The good news was that the tendon that allows the finger to flex, an artery and nerves were all attached to the sliver of skin that was still intact.

    "It cut right through the skin all the way to bone. Luckily for him one of the two arteries in the finger was with the piece of skin and kept his finger alive," Carpenter said.

    The medical team took Cherry to the operating room, washed and cleaned the cut, picked out small flakes of metal from the bone and repaired the bone, tendon and skin. The doctor then inserted pins into Cherry's finger to keep it in place during initial healing.

    "Orthopedic surgeons love doing surgery because we fix things," Carpenter said.

    The doctor said while injuries like Cherry's are rare, the ITCP does handle meniscus tears and similar injuries in the area of responsibility and helps return healthy warriors to the fight.

    Currently recovering from his wound, Cherry is on track to return to regular duty with all of his fingers.

    "It's great," he said. "The faster I get back the better."



    Date Taken: 07.30.2011
    Date Posted: 08.16.2011 03:21
    Story ID: 75403

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