SIMULATING THE CHAOS OF BATTLE
THE RESEARCH TEAM gathered in late November to record audio and video of simulated rescues at the Palmetto Health-University of South Carolina School of Medicine Simulation Center.
Each run-through began in a debriefing room outfitted to simulate a battlefield. The sound of bombs thudded in the background. A picture of black smoke rising from behind several vehicles was projected on the wall.
Actors, including Rory Gilbert, played roles of wounded soldiers. As Gilbert sat on the ground, Simulation Center medical director Christopher Gainey called, “Over here!”
Two medics wearing cameras on their helmets helped Gilbert to his feet and brought him into a stretcher in the hallway. They took him to another room that acted as the evac helicopter.
Two other medics with cameras attached to their flight suits secured Gilbert and sat behind him, as he was “flown” away, the sound of rotors cutting the air.
The medics then wheeled Gilbert’s stretcher down the hall and out of the building to a mobile center in the parking lot for simulated surgery with Steve Shelton, medical director of Emergency/Disaster Management at Palmetto Health.
Shelton says that even in a controlled environment, it can be difficult to get true information from the scene. It would be even harder with the challenges that come from a battlefield and traveling long distances, he says.
“Sometimes it’s important to know what’s involved in that wound,” Shelton says. “What was the scenario that went into that? What was the other care that was provided before that may not necessarily be visible?”
Kelly Hawsey, who has worked as a critical-care air transport nurse, says that medics don’t have much time for documentation as they assess patients and load and secure them on aircraft.
“A lot of times we would have a piece of tape we would put on our flight-suit pant leg,” says Hawsey, who is now telehealth lead at Palmetto Health. “We would write notes on that as we were going and pull that off later and use that to trigger our documentation. It can be chaotic. It’s not as streamlined as it is in the hospital.”
Melissa Smith, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Clemson, watched the simulated rescues unfold on a video screen in a conference room. She is overseeing voice recognition and video detection tasks for the team.
Her job includes developing technology that separates words from battlefield sounds. Anyone who has used commercially available voice recognition, such as Siri, knows that words can be misunderstood even in the best of conditions.
“Just in a normal environment, it’s very difficult to recognize natural language,” she says. “There are more advanced techniques we’re going to be applying, including some specialized audio techniques, to try to reduce some of the background noise such that we can get that conversation out of the environment.”