Deployed nations align, save an Italian’s life

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • 435th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

A worldwide average of 1.2 million people die from vehicle accidents each year. Service members deployed from multiple nations in Northwest Africa collaborated to prevent adding another death to this statistic.

A female Italian civilian was recently involved in a nearly fatal car accident adjacent to Nigerien Air Base 101 in Niamey, Niger. She likely would have died at the hospital in Niger, if it wasn’t for the efforts of U.S. service members and the collaboration of service members from Italy, France and Germany, according to U.S Air Force Lt. Col. Kyle Korver, 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron commander.

“When we were notified by the Italians of this particular incident, we basically started calling and coordinating with them on how we could possibly help,” Korver said.

The patient had a male passenger in the car with her during the incident. Nigerien ambulance services rushed both patients to the hospital in Niamey. Due to the extent of the woman’s injuries, she needed to be transported to a more advanced medical facility. That’s where the doctors and staff of Special Operations Command Forward – North and West Africa’s Ground Surgical Team, and the Airmen at Air Base 101 worked together to help save a life.

“Once we found out they intended to move the individuals and were trying to get them airlifted somewhere else, (the Italian leadership) approached our ground surgical team through Special Operations Command Africa channels and actually asked if this patient in particular, who was the worst off of the two, could come over here for a lifesaving surgery,” Korver said.

The Italians sought medical advice from the US ground surgical team, who recommended treatment before the woman was airlifted to another hospital.

“There were findings on the CT scan that indicated there were likely injuries that would require surgical care (gas and fluid in the abdomen),” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicholas McKenzie, Special Operations Command Forward Northwest Africa ground surgical team general surgeon.

“While difficult to quantify survival accurately, given the delay in recognition, the patient had injuries that would be fatal from abdominal sepsis,” McKenzie said. “We felt very strongly she would not survive a flight to receive care.”

Nigerien doctors in Niamey performed the CT scan roughly 20 hours prior to arrival at Air Base 101.

“You literally had medical personnel from five different countries all coordinating on the care of this patient,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Justin Tingey, 768th EABS flight doctor.

The Italians had their own provider who coordinated getting the patient from the hospital to the Americans for care and on to her final destination at another hospital in Senegal. The doctor spoke three languages in an effort to synchronize information sharing with French, Nigeriens, Italians, Senegalese, Germans and Americans.

“The French and Germans were actually brought in because the French were integral to coordinating a lot of the activities that went on here,” Tingey said. “The Germans - they actually were a backup plan to get the patient out of here if the original plan did not work as far as bringing a civilian in to perform an aeromedical evacuation.”

Additionally, because of the specialties the Germans provide, they were all integral to the consultation on all aspects of the patient care, Tingey said.

The woman is currently in Italy and on the road to recovery, according to Air Base 101’s Italian team. As a whole, the event highlights the capability US Forces can provide to Niger and the surrounding region, when needed, Korver said.

“My personal takeaway is that it is very encouraging just to know the medical posture that we have here,” Korver said. “When we’re able to transfer a patient from an emergency room ICU situation to come to an expeditionary base and give them life-sustaining care, and to know that we have that level of medical capacity here, it’s pretty impressive.”

(Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three-part series on how U.S. service members recently provided life-saving medical care for a female Italian civilian at Nigerien Air Base 101.)