Simple surgery, unfavorable conditions; Business as usual for Navy docs in desert

22 Aug 2002 |

"This is a medical clinic," Lt. Alfredo E. Baker said. "It has to work like one. We are medical professionals."

The Marine Air Ground Task Force 2 regimental surgeon spoke about the regimental aid station and his corpsmen. He emphasized patient dedication and how important trust is as Cpl. Matt T. Thorp, a 2nd Marine Regiment radio operator, entered the RAS and brushed the Mojave Desert dust from his camouflage utility blouse.

The Marine, currently participating in Combined Arms Exercise 10-02 here, complained of having a copper BB in his arm from an accident as a child.

Baker had Thorp lie down on the operating table and joked about amputating his arm below the shoulder. He said many field surgeons don't do simple surgeries, but that they are part of his training and he does them. He said he safely removed lipomas (benign fat tumors) and malignant tumors from Marines and sailors at his last CAX and this patient shouldn't be a problem either.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Craig W. Pasanen, a regimental corpsman, prepared the patient by numbing and sterilizing the area and placing an uncontaminated cloth, which exposed the area to be treated over Thorp's arm. Outside, the desert's sirocco winds howled over the steel roof.

Pasanen gathered a fresh set of instruments as Baker put on his gloves and explained the surgery to Thorp.

"You have to gain the patient's trust and make them feel comfortable," Baker said.

The Panamanian medical officer gave details of what he was doing throughout the surgery - from finding the BB with his fingers to making the incision with the razor-sharp scalpel, opening the wound with the forceps and removing the afflicting object.

Through the years, Thorp's body sent calcium to the irritation and nearly dissolved the object.

"It wasn't bad at all," Thorp said. "I'm just glad it's gone."

Pasanan closed the wound and cleaned it one last time. He and Baker gave their patient precautions to utilize over the next few days, gave him antibiotics to counter-act the air-borne contaminants here and told him to come back for a check-up.

Thorp put his blouse on and returned to his unit. He and the rest of the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based Marines will return home after completing CAX 10-02 in mid-September.