The centers also provide care for sick U.S. citizens in non-battle related incidents and the Afghanistan army and police.
“We have a lot of capability considering we are in a war zone,” said Col. (Dr.) Margaret McNeill, CJTH ICU/ICW flight commander. “If we are restricted on equipment or supply, we have people trained in those places to fill that gap. We adapt to use what we have.”
The ICU is where the sickest patients are housed, and as they become more stable they are transferred to the ICW. The goal is to get patients out of both centers within 24-48 hours.
Both centers also provide humanitarian care to local Afghan patients who might not otherwise receive medical attention.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge when you first get here,” said Colonel McNeill, deployed here from Andrews AFB, Md. “The different language is a complication, but our interpreters help a lot. The Afghan citizens also always come with a parent or guardian, but you get used to it.”
“It’s a challenging environment, but it is most rewarding,” added Colonel McNeill. “I really feel like I’m part of the mission.”
Colonel McNeill, who is an ICU nurse by trade, has also worked at Bethesda Medical Center.
“Trauma here is more severe,” said the colonel. “Every day I can’t help but learn different techniques, such as pain control techniques and how to talk with my staff during hard moments.”
Colonel McNeill’s favorite part about working here is the people.
“I remember we had a Marine who was severely injured, but no matter how sick he was, he still saluted me because being a Marine was important to him,” she recalled.
Another favorite moment of Colonel McNeill’s is when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates presented Purple Hearts to wounded warriors here.
“The Purple Heart is the ultimate symbol of sacrifice,” she said. “I just wish he could give out every Purple Heart.”