Medical Help In The Desert

The Early Show, Hospital tent, crash
CBS/The Early Show
It is where lives are saved and the wounded are treated and stabilized so soldiers can travel to military facilities in Europe.

The Early Show Co-Anchor Julie Chen is stationed with the U.S. 47th Combat Hospital Support Unit (CASH) in the Kuwaiti desert to report on an integral part of the military.

About 75 percent of all the combat casualties in the theater (combat operation) have come to the 47th facility with gunshot wounds or extremity injuries.

"Once patients are evacuated to us, they are triaged or assessed by our clinical staff, and a determination is made whether they need further surgery or whether they need just some recovery time, and then they are either air evacuated home, or if their condition stabilizes and improves enough for them to return to doing their job in the military, they can be returned to their unit, wherever it is in the theater," says Lieutenant Colonel Steven Bolt, a physician who helps run the hospital.

The hospital is designed to continue functioning after a possible chemical or biological attack, while keeping its staff of 600 safe.

"We have a liner in our tent here that allows us to close it off from the outside environment, and then pressurize the inside of it … basically it pushes any incoming air back out of the hospital, and prevents either chemical or biological agents from coming in contact with our hospital staff or the patients that are inside that portion of the facility."

Once a determination is made by the commander to employ the system, the troop zips the hospital and it can stay that way for a period of days.

The hospital even has a C.A.T. Scan in the middle of the desert.

"Portions of our hospital are metal boxes," says Bolt. "Little boxes that come in a smaller size when they're shipped from the states and once they're put on the ground here we can expand them to accommodate our C.A.T. Scanner, to accommodate our operating rooms, and portions of the lab, our pharmacy and our regular x-ray suite are all little metal boxes."

A Patient of CASH

Chen spoke to Sergeant Jeff Sawdey, a platoon commander, about his treatment at CASH.

"We were getting ready to stage and go in to Iraq and get the vehicles, all the equipment, and then my appendix decided it didn't want to play anymore," says Sergeant Jeff Soddy. "So the field docs took a look at me, and from there, they got me here with a few other casualties. I went through surgery and I'm recovering in here."

Sawdey says he is anxious to get back to combat.

"I'm a platoon sergeant and I have 48 Marines underneath me," explains Soddy. "And before we deployed out here, a lot of the parents contacted me, and told me, 'please bring my son home. I made them a promise. We started together. And we're going to finish it together.'"

He says seeing fellow American soldiers go to the hospital with shrapnel and gunshot wounds crying in pain will be embedded in his memory forever.

Sawdey says he wants today's U.S. military to finish the job they started because he doesn't want his children to have to visit the same region for the wrong reason.