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Physical therapy saves an arm and a leg

By David Dobrydney Senior Airman, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (March 17, 2013) — With modern surgical techniques, more people are keeping limbs that may have been lost.

However, the surgery is only half the story. The 455th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron Physical Therapy clinic in the Craig Joint Theater Hospital works to ensure those limbs remain useful.

“Our mission is to rehabilitate our warfighters and local nationals that come into the hospital,” said Staff Sgt. Carolina Marin Soto, 455th EMDOS physical therapy NCO in charge.

Each month, the clinic treats approximately 350 patients, both servicemembers from American and coalition forces as well as local nationals.

Capt. (Dr.) Kent Do, 455th EMDOS physical therapist, said most of their patients are those with lighter injuries such as a sprained ankle or a dislocated shoulder. Do also goes out to different units across the base to provide on-the-spot diagnosis and treatment.

“We’re trying to keep people from having to go home,” Do said.

The members of the units appreciate the personalized approach.

“It’s great that he comes out here,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Pfarr, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron pilot, “since we can’t leave the building because we’re on alert.”

For individual patients who come to the CJTH, Do will do an initial assessment and draw up a treatment plan. Then Marin Soto will help the patient implement that plan. When patients come in having experienced heavy trauma, sometimes the initial assessment is all that can be done before they have to leave Afghanistan for a higher level of treatment.

“We don’t usually see a lot of Americans [with heavy trauma] because they get shipped out so fast, usually between 24 and 48 hours,” Do said.

The American Airmen also work closely with their counterparts at the hospital operated by the Republic of Korea forces, which sees the majority of local nationals who come here for treatment. One recent case involved a young Afghan girl who had been run over by a vehicle. Her father told the orthopedic surgeons at the CJTH that amputation of both legs had been recommended.

“Our orthopedic surgeons disagreed with that, and they were able to keep both her legs,” Marin Soto recalled.

Following multiple surgeries at the CJTH, the girl was turned over to Physical Therapy, after not moving at all for more than three months.

“She was told that she wasn’t going to have legs at first,” said Marin Soto, “so for us to know that our orthopedic [surgeons] were able to save them … it was more motivation for us to get her walking.”

Three months later, the girl is now able to walk with the aid of crutches while recuperating at the Korean hospital. Marin Soto conducts the girl’s therapy sessions on days when the Korean staff is off duty. Marin Soto expects the girl will soon be able to walk without assistance.

“It’s been a lot of work, but well worth it,” she said