Brilliant Blood Benefits Broken Leg
23 September 2015
An American soldier's crushed leg has been saved thanks in part to a massive infusion of blood organised by Captain Charles Wetzel, a pathology scientist at Taji's hospital in Iraq.
Medics worked franticly over 48 hours to save the man's leg that needed a damaged artery repaired following a fork lift accident.
"I ended up transferring 40 bags of (blood) product into him," Captain Wetzel said.
"We also had to activate a walk-in blood bank to get blood platelets to help close the wound."
Staff received American awards for their work saving the man's leg, including a US Army Achievement Medal for Captain Wetzel.
"It's good to see that he kept his leg thanks to the efforts of everybody," he said.
As a pathology scientist, Captain Wetzel performs biological tests to aid in patient diagnosis and manages the hospitals blood supply.
It's the first time Army has deployed with separate blood components rather than whole blood, meaning patients can receive packaged red blood cells, fresh frozen plasma or cryoprecipitate depending on what they require.
"It also makes maximum use of the donor's blood," Captain Wetzel said.
"The donor doesn’t just give a pint of blood anymore; the Red Cross separates it out so that instead of giving one product, the donor gives three."
Capt Wetzel said it was important not to let the rigours of a deployment affect the quality of care.
"We apply the same rules and standards as a hospital in Australia," he said.
"Results are important for the treatment of patients but it's no good if those results are not correct."
He arrived in Taji during early May and was involved in setting up the hospital and equipment.
"It was great to be here at the start and get the capability up and running," he said.
"I also took receipt of all the products and arranged for them to be stored correctly."
Captain Wetzel has seen over 200 patients since he arrived in Iraq, including Australian, New Zealand, civilians and Coalition Force personnel.
Captain Wetzel is deployed as part of Task Group Taji, a combined Australian-New Zealand military training force located at the Taji Military Complex northwest of Baghdad.
TG Taji has been deployed to Iraq to support an international effort to train and build the capacity of the regular Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).