By 1st Lt. Douglas Bengal
2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD — It’s darker than your average midnight in a palm grove. All the lights are turned off inside the aid station where medics with Company C, 1st “Dragon” Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center, prepare materials for intravenous injections which they will be administering to simulated casualties.
Only the dim ambient glow created by their PVS-14 monocular night vision device illuminates the outlines of soldiers waiting to be “stuck.” It’s a worst-case scenario that medics with Company C, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., at Joint Security Station Muthana, Iraq, feel they must be ready to handle.
The optics require medics to maintain the same consistent distance from their point of focus, regardless of the complexity of the task. Clarity, color and shadow are regulated to shades of green and black.
“You find different angles for using your skills,” said Spc. George Wilson, a medic with Company C, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., and a San Antonio native. “You have turn up your senses and use them in a different way.”
There are many steps to executing an IV stick: apply the tourniquet, find a good vein, clean the puncture site, align the needle and stick, observe a “flash” of blood indicating the stick was successful, lower the needle and advance it slightly, remove the tourniquet, fully insert the catheter, apply pressure to occlude the catheter and then remove the needle.
Achieving a stick may be easier to achieve under full daylight if the casualty is still and the vein easily accessible, but battlefield conditions are rarely that simple and medics are constantly devising different, challenging simulations with which to improve their skills. Veins must be able to be detected with touch, needles indexed by memory, puncture sites maintained by touch and held to mark them. Sticking slightly to the side of the vein could result in a catheter being advanced into tissue. Perceptive fingers are needed to find thinner or covered veins.
The Company C medics are unanimous in their opinion regarding the likelihood that this training will be applied in the field.
“The complete darkness stick represents an extreme, worst-case scenario,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Coleman, the aid station non-commissioned officer in charge at Joint Security Station Muthana, and a Soddy Daisy, Tenn., native. “The exercise serves two additional purposes to preparing to work in these conditions: familiarization and as a confidence builder.”
On the off chance that all chemical lights, flashlights, headlights, houselights, and even weapon lights are inoperable, and casualties are in need of treatment, the Company C medics are up to the task.
“It’s something new, and it’s something different,” said Coleman. “The medics have to go strictly off their knowledge of the cardiovascular system and ours did an excellent job.”