C-STAR students, Tech. Sgt. Shanaysha Evans and 1st Lt. Weber Munsayac examine an emergency trauma patient (in this case a mannequin) at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center during a mass-casualty exercise Wednesday in midtown St. Louis. (Bill Phelan photo)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Students of a Level 1 trauma treatment program created by the Missouri Air National Guard got a real test of their medical skills Wednesday during a mass-casualty exercise hosted by Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.
Under the exercise scenario a tornado struck a building in midtown St. Louis, injuring approximately 60 people. Responding to the mock disaster was Abbott Ambulance Service, ARCH Helicopter, students and staff of the National Guard C-STARS program, and the Trauma Center at Cardinal Glennon.
C-STARS was created in 1998, primarily for medical teams of the Missouri Air National Guard. It was the brainchild of the late Col. Michael Hayek, who was the Missouri State Air Surgeon at the time. The program has since expanded to include active duty Air Force personnel and occasionally, Army National Guardsmen.
"Dr. Hayek recognized that his National Guard medical teams were not prepared should they face a drawn out conflict," explained Capt. Scott Fallin, of Shiloh, Ill., a Missouri Air National Guard officer and administrator of the St. Louis C-STARS program. "About 40 percent of these folks were serving in non-clinical roles in their clinical capacity. So Col. Hayek's vision was to develop a partnership with an inner city trauma center so that local Guardsmen could drill at the trauma center and develop their skills."
Many C-STARS students have gone on to work on medical teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, treating wounded U.S. Troops and civilians, many of them children. For that reason, the program recently added a pediatric training component.
During Wednesday's exercise dozens of children with mock injuries flooded the Cardinal Glennon emergency room. C-STARS also employed the use of its anatomical mannequins, capable of simulating numerous traumatic medical conditions.
"The realism is beyond my expectations," said Lt. Col. Rance Bryan, of O'Fallon, a trauma nurse and interim director of the C-STARS program. Bryan served two tours of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom. "The mannequins add an extra factor of realism that we couldn't do with real patients," he said.
As both real children and mannequins arrived via ambulance and helicopter, C-STARS students and the Cardinal Glennon trauma staff began triage and treatment of the injured.
"The realism of this is especially important for me because I'm being deployed to Afghanistan," said Maj. Nelva Nelson, a clinical nurse from Columbia, Md. "So I need to be exposed to this type of trauma. C-STARS is a great program because it builds confidence. By the time I've completed the program, I'll be ready for deployment."
"This was a good training experience," echoed 1st Lt. Weber Munsayac, a C-STARS student and triage nurse. "We got see the flow of a real trauma center and that was awesome experience in case we're deployed. It definitely decreases the anxiety."
"Actually being able to participate in this type of event builds confidence," added Tech. Sgt. Arjune Haynes, an active duty airman stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.
For Tech. Sgt. Shanaysha Evans, who will join Nelson in Afghanistan, the addition of children to the exercise was "eye opening."
"I've never seen so many injured children at one time," she said "This (training) is going to help a lot. I know I'll be treating U.S. Troops in Afghanistan, but I could treat children as well."
After the exercise, Lt. Col. Bryan praised the performance of the hospital staff and C-STARS team.
"This was all hands on board to save life and limb and it could have been very chaotic," he said. "Both the C-STARS staff and the Cardinal Glennon staff integrated together very well, like they had done it all their lives."
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Lt. Col. Rance Bryan, interim director of the Air National Guard C-STARS program, uses a laptop to monitor the vital signs of a patient at the Cardinal Glennon emergency room during a mass-casualty exercise in midtown St. Louis Wednesday morning. (Bill Phelan photo)